The grand jury is a historic institution and serves an important role in our society. It is sometimes referred to as the "watchdog" of the community. The grand jury investigates and reports on the operations, accounts, and records of local government agencies.
Jurors are selected to serve for a one year term (July 1 to June 30).
The Sonoma County Civil Grand Jury generally meets as a group once per week at the County’s Los Guilicos Facility located at 365 Casa Manana Road, Building K, Santa Rosa, California. Committees (composed of Grand Jurors) generally meet once per week at the same location or via Zoom. Interviews conducted as a part of investigations, are conducted at Grand Jury office, the interviewees office or via Zoom.
Depending on the number of reports you and your fellow Grand Jurors decide to initiate, the time commitment varies. On your Grand Jury application, you indicate your willingness to work 10 to 25 hours per week (which includes Grand Jury sessions, interviews, and researching, writing, and editing documents from home).
New members of the Grand Jury participate in a comprehensive orientation and training program organized by the holdover members. This program includes a review of investigative procedures, techniques of report writing, visits to county and city facilities, and meetings with various county and city administrators and law enforcement officers, as well as members of the previous Grand Jury.
Additional training is currently being provided by the California State Grand Jurors Association and usually lasts two days. Support may also be given to the grand jury throughout the year by the county, the Court, county counsel, and the district attorney.
Grand Jurors are expected to be computer-literate, having a working knowledge of:
• online research
• word processing
Grand Jurors are assigned computers to use during the term and specific online tool training is provided.
Investigate and report on the operations and records of County officers and departments (Penal Code § 925);
• Investigate and report on the operations and records of special districts (districts (Penal Code § 925);
• Examine the books and records of any incorporated city or joint powers agency in the County (Penal Code § 925a);
• Inquire into the condition and management of all public prisons within the county (Penal Code § 919b);
• Inquire into the willful or corrupt misconduct in office of all public officers within the county (Penal Code § 919c);
• Submit a final report of its findings and recommendations to the Superior Court (Penal Code § 933a).
• The Fair Political Practices Commission requires that all grand jurors file a Statement of Economic Interests Form 700.
By law Grand Jurors are prohibited from disclosing the evidence obtained in their investigations and revealing the names of complainants or witnesses. Similarly, witnesses are prohibited from disclosing any proceedings of the Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury may call upon the following officials for advice and guidance in discharging its responsibilities:
• The Presiding Judge of the Superior Court for any type of advice and counsel it deems necessary for its efficient functioning.
• The County Counsel in connection with its operation and the rights, duties and obligations of grand jurors generally.
• The District Attorney in connection with possible criminal conduct uncovered in the course of an investigation.
No, every Juror is not required to write a report, though all Jurors contribute to each report in a wide variety of ways. Publishing meaningful reports is an important Grand Jury task and usually one lead writer volunteers to spearhead each report. However, every Juror brings unique skills to the Grand Jury. Other examples of tasks performed by Jurors include conducting research, arranging interviews, conducting interviews, contributing to discussions, taking notes to document various Jury activities, analyzing data, performing other committee roles.
At the beginning of the Grand Jury term, the 19 members establish committees that focus on broad topic areas (e.g., health, law, education, finance, environment, etc.). Often investigations are initiated as the result of citizen’s requests for investigations. Each Jury has the authority to select whatever topics it feels are important to investigate.
California law requires one Civil Grand Jury report be published per year by each County. Each Civil Grand Jury has the prerogative to decide the number of reports it will publish beyond the one required by law.
The Civil Grand Jury is effectively a citizens’ watchdog group that investigates county, city and special district governments to ensure they are operating efficiently, and administering citizen tax dollars appropriately. The function of a Criminal Grand Jury is to review indictments brought by the County District Attorney to determine if there is sufficient evidence to hold a trial.
• Satisfaction of being a catalyst for change
• Intellectual stimulation from creative problem solving and learning about local government and issues
• Identify issues and make recommendations to save money, improve services, solve problems
• Be a part of the solution – make Sonoma County even better!
• Interesting tours - Juvenile Hall and Sonoma County Jail
• Utilizing your skills
• Meet many elected officials, law enforcement, county leaders
• Collaborating with 18 other smart and interesting people from diverse background
Those interested in applying can go to the Grand Jury website to access the online application.
Any U.S. citizen, 18 years of age or older, who has been a resident of the County for one year immediately before being selected, of intelligence and good character, with a working knowledge of the English language, is eligible to serve on the Civil Grand Jury.
• Complete an application
• Attend an orientation
• Participate in an interview with a Superior Court Judge
• Attend a random drawing presided over by the Presiding Judge of the Sonoma County Superior Court
• New jurors and alternates are sworn in immediately after the drawing
Yes. Although primarily a civic responsibility, a grand juror is paid $15 and is given a mileage reimbursement for each general, $12.50 for committee meetings, and other Grand Jury activity juror attend.
Reports & Responses
The results of most Sonoma County Grand Jury investigations are contained in reports that set forth findings concerning the problems investigated and make recommendations for solutions. These documents are published either as Interim Reports during the year or in the Grand Jury’s Final Report at the expiration of its term of office. A minimum of 12 of the 19 Grand Jurors must approve the content of any report. Once approved, all reports are reviewed by County Counsel and the Presiding Judge for compliance with the law before being released to the public.
By law, the governing body of any agency that is the subject of a Grand Jury report must comment on the findings and recommendation of the report within 90 days of its publication date, except that every elected county officer or agency head must comment within 60 days. The comments must be submitted to the Presiding Judge and must specify what action, if any, has been or will be taken by the department or agency regarding the recommendations or explain why no action has been taken. This requirement gives the sitting Grand Jury or its successor the opportunity to track the results of investigations.
Copies of the Final Report of the Sonoma County Grand Jury are distributed in July as an insert of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and are sent to the regional branches of the Sonoma County Library.
Current and past reports listed by year.
** Responses available to view at all Sonoma County Library Branches.