The major functions of a grand jury are divided into criminal indictments and civil investigations. While both functions are executed by the same panel in Butte County, the civil investigation portion requires the majority of time.
The civil, or "watchdog" responsibilities of the grand jury include the examination of all aspects of county government, including cities and special districts, to ensure the county is being governed honestly and efficiently and county monies are being handled appropriately. The grand jury is mandated by law to inquire into the conditions and management of public jails.
Investigations may be conducted on public agencies, the administration and affairs of any city within the county, or to examine books and records of redevelopment agencies. It is also appropriate for any private citizen, county official or county employee to present a written complaint to a grand jury for investigation.
During its term, the grand jury may select the government affairs which it wishes to investigate. These investigations are conducted by grand jury committees in cooperation with the departments and agencies of the county. Committees may ask for support and advice from Superior Court, District Attorney's office, County Counsel or outside consultants.
Please visit Grand Jury information page on Butte County's website for more information and forms.
To qualify to serve on the Grand Jury, you must meet the following requirements as outlined in Penal Code §893:
- Be a citizen of the United States; 18 years of age or older;
- A current resident of Butte County and for one year immediately before being selected;
- Possess natural faculties of ordinary intelligence, of sound judgment, and of fair character;
- Possess sufficient knowledge of the English language.
A person is not legally qualified to apply or serve on the Grand Jury if any of the following apply:
- The person is serving as a trial juror in any court of this state;
- The person has been discharged as a grand juror in any court of this state within one year;
- The person has been convicted of malfeasance in office or any felony or other high crime;
- The person is serving as an elected public officer.
Grand Jurors are provided the following resources:
A two-day Grand Juror training workshop conducted by professional trainers and former members of grand juries throughout the State from the California Grand Jurors Association;
Grand Jury Procedure Manual provided by the Court; and
Availability of Grand Jury legal advisors: County Counsel, Presiding Judge, and District Attorney.
Members are paid $36 per day for attendance at the grand Jury meetings. In addition, roundtrip mileage to attend regular grand jury meetings is paid at the current IRS standard mileage rate.
Grand juries have a critical role in our free society as an independent “voice of the community.” Citizens from different walks of life take on the important responsibility of investigating the conduct of government institutions as well as sometimes dealing with criminal matters. Seeing that local institutions were being governed honestly and efficiently and that public monies were being handled appropriately was the mantra of our nineteen grand jurors. We worked closely in this binding purpose with the commitment that we would report what we found, be it good or be it bad. We left our one year as grand jurors with the satisfied feeling that we’d met our commitment and that we’d provided a conscientious and just voice for our community.
John Blacklock, Foreperson, 2007-08 Butte County Grand Jury
Serving on the Butte County Grand Jury proved to be one of the most fulfilling volunteer opportunities I’ve experienced. Not only did I learn a great deal about our county and several of its agencies and cities, I also gained new friends in my fellow jurors. I felt like we made a positive contribution to all the citizens of the County by doing thorough investigations of, and reports on, the areas we chose to review. I will admit that it took a lot of time and effort but with each juror contributing, the workload was not overwhelming and the experience was greatly rewarding. I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to serve on the Grand Jury and would highly recommend it to others.
Connie Cox, Member of the 2012-2013 Butte County Grand Jury
I would encourage anyone with a chance to join a Grand Jury to do so. It is a unique opportunity to learn how the local various governments operate. It is also a chance to meet and work with exceptional fellow jurors. It is a lot of work, but it is worthwhile. You are helping the Butte County residents get an annual report that is not available anywhere else.
Ron Hostetter, Member of 2012-2013 Butte County Grand Jury
I served on two Butte County Civil Grand Juries. The rewards exceeded my expectations. I learned a lot about the numerous and diverse Butte County agencies, from Cemetery Districts, to Mosquito Abatement Districts, Air Quality Monitoring Agency, Humane Shelters, LAFCO, local cities, and many other local public agencies.
Even more rewarding is the feeling that as a local citizen I can foster positive changes in local government. Our investigative work required us to interview employees of the local agencies. After responding to our questions on the local agency’s policies and procedures, I have seen agencies change their procedures even before we issued our report. Another specific example: One of the juries that I served on performed an investigation of a local city. We found safety issues, e.g. fire hazards and fire sprinkler deficiencies, an air quality issue in City Hall, buildings near the airport which exceeded occupancy limits, building permits issued by unauthorized officials, zoning issues, and personnel issues. We issued a report with 36 findings and 31 recommendations. Two years later, a new Grand Jury investigated the same city to determine what actions had been taken. They determined that almost every one of our recommendations had been implemented. I was very proud of the service of my fellow jurors and myself to the Butte County community.
John Welton, Member of 2008/09 and 2009/10 Butte County Grand Juries
Serving on the 2009-2010 Grand Jury helped me fulfill a fantasy of being a detective. I've always been a person who wants to know how things work and why. Being a member of the Butte County Grand Jury gave me the means to delve into the inner workings of local government not available to members of the public. It was a very rewarding experience in that I was able to see how our inquiries and subsequent reports brought to light issues in and made changes to local government. Also, having only been in the community a few years, I was able to make some lifelong friendships.
One of the questions asked is how much time does serving require. There is a minimum of two to three hours a week which does increase to attend the necessary committee meetings and interviews. However, many members on my grand jury found service so interesting that they choose to donate more time.
Training for new grand jurors throughout the state is provided by the California Grand Jurors’ Association, a state-wide organization composed of prior grand jurors. Serving on the Butte County Grand Jury was so rewarding that I subsequently became one of the first members of the Butte County Chapter of the California Grand Juror's Association. Our chapter of the Association exists to educate the public about the California Grand Jury system, assist the court in anyway regarding the Grand Jury system and assist the Butte County Grand Jury with non-confidential and procedural matters.
If you are given the opportunity to serve, take it and enjoy.
Denise Hopper, Member of 2009/2010 Butte County Grand Jury