Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Recruitment
Every year 19 people are randomly selected from a pool of interested applicants to be the magnifying glass for the community into the inner workings of their local government. They are charged with the task of investigating and reporting on the operations of local government by being given access to the agencies in Santa Clara County. These 19 volunteers and residents of the county are recruited annually by the Superior Court to dedicate time into observing, reviewing, and publishing findings and recommendations in reports on the Superior Court’s Civil Grand Jury webpage. Volunteering your time to the enhancements of local government takes dedication and determination. Civil Grand Juror, John P., compares the work and duties of the Civil Grand Jury to journalism. Both bodies are charged with serving “as watchdogs, holding governmental institutions accountable by reporting on their responsibilities and behaviors, especially those that are against the public interest,” John writes. This role “keeps our government honest.” John’s comparison goes further by identifying both groups’ need to be impartial and without bias; both must be able to go through voluminous amounts of information and condense it to a manageable, yet informative size; both must ensure the information published is factual and accurate; both work with hard deadlines; and both have the ability to strongly impact local government and the residents they serve. This watchdog group is compiled of people from different backgrounds and expertise with a goal of ensuring the governing body and its officials are working transparently with their constituents in mind. Some applicants are referred by friends or family because they displayed a need for intellectual stimulation, as was the case for Jacquelyn C. Jacquelyn’s son felt she would enjoy learning more about how her community leaders conduct business and what each agency does for the community. Jacquelyn explained, “You’re learning how your house is being built.” She added that being selected to be on the Civil Grand Jury is an honor and a learning experience. The experience this year has given her more confidence and comfort in the community leaders. The diversity the random selections provides is an attractive feature as pointed out by Harry O. Learning to compromise with the diverse backgrounds in the group the same way government officials need to compromise is appealing. Applicants are not limited to public or private sector personnel, and the mixing of both worlds can be eye opening. Harry found that once the group learned how to work together, they were able to “buckle down, and come to a consensus.” The group must be able to pare down large topics due to the 12-month time period. The time commitment to the Civil Grand Jury may be significant. Each group is able to decide their schedule with a majority consensus. Returning Civil Grand Juror, James F., remembers spending over 40 hours per week on grand jury related business his first year volunteering. Although that time has decreased, Jim believes in order to be a contribution to the group, one would need to be retired. Grand Jurors receive a $20 daily per diem and mileage reimbursement at the federal rate when conducting grand jury related business. If you see yourself in any of these examples or you are looking for an opportunity to provide significant impact on local government, you are encouraged to apply. For more information about the Civil Grand Jury visit www.scscourt.org and click on the GRAND JURY link, or call (408) 882-2721 to speak with Tamara Davis, Deputy Manager Civil Grand Jury.