Grand jury experience offers a teachable moment



September 2015

By Jackie Brodsky

The Orange County Grand Jury will begin reviewing applications for the 2016-17 session when on-line applications become available October 1. This is different from the jury summons we occasionally receive in the mail. The grand jury does not sit in a jury box and decide “guilty” or “not.” It is a voluntary community service, with a one-year commitment. 

Yes, it is similar to a full-time job, with minimal compensation; however, the experience is fantastic.  I like to say it's Government 101 because we are introduced to all aspects of county/city government.  Our “watchdog” responsibilities (representing county citizens) include examination of these agencies/departments to ensure that they are being governed honestly, efficiently, and monies are being handled appropriately.  Many of us have no governmental experience, so training is provided to carry out our duties, including tours of pertinent facilities, report writing and interviewing.

Our reports have no enforcement authority, but agencies do need to respond to our findings and recommendations.  Our investigations are impartial and as “Dragnet’s” Sgt. Joe Friday would say “all we want are the facts, ma’am.”  

We function as a total grand jury panel -- 19 members. Each report is approved by at least 12 (majority) members. These are public reports that can be found on www.ocgrandjury.org.

To apply, one must complete an application (on-line or sent by mail).  The deadline is January 30, 2016. The pool of applicants is invited to the courthouse for a general Q & A session; next, the sheriff visits each person at their home for a brief chat.  Over the next several months, applications are reviewed by a committee of judges. In April, notifications are sent to no more than 90 applicants who are then interviewed by two judges. In May, 25-30 finalists are notified and fingerprinted.  Shortly after, the final 25-30 applicants meet in a courtroom for a random drawing of 19 members and alternates.  The new grand jury is sworn in on July 1.

To quality, applicants must be 18 years old; a U.S. citizen; a resident of Orange County for at least one year; and have a knowledge of English. It is helpful to have basic computer knowledge, enjoy reading and be willing to function as a team.

The grand jury meets at the Orange County Courthouse at the civic center in Santa Ana.  Jurors are paid $50/day, plus mileage and secure parking.  For an application, see the website or call the hotline at (657) 622-6747. 

Jackie Brodsky lived in Orange Park Acres for 33 years and now resides in Santiago Hills.