The grand jury is one of the oldest civil institutions in the United States. The Santa Cruz County Civil Grand Jury consists of 19 private citizens solicited from the registry of voters.
The grand jury is part of the judicial branch of government and has three functions:
- To examine all aspects of city and county governments and special districts by initiating its own investigations
- To serve as ombudsman for the citizens of the cities and county
- To publish its investigative findings and recommendations to improve governmental operations
The grand jury, although a part of the judicial system, is an entirely independent body. The Presiding Judge of the Superior Court, the District Attorney, the County Counsel, and the State Attorney General act only as its advisors. They cannot prevent grand jury action unless that action violates the law.
The grand jury reviews and evaluates operations, procedures, methods, and systems used by governmental agencies to determine 1) whether they comply with the stated objectives of the agency and 2) if their operation can be made more efficient and effective. It may inquire into any aspect of county or city government, including special legislative districts and joint power agencies, to serve the best interest of Santa Cruz County residents.
The grand jury functions lawfully only as a group. No individual grand juror, acting alone, has any power or authority. Meetings of the grand jury are not open to the public. The law requires that all matters discussed before the grand jury and all votes taken are kept confidential. The end result of inquiries is released to the public in the form of a final report. This must be approved, prior to release, by the supervising judge of the Superior Court.
The ultimate goal of the grand jury is to improve government in the county and to make public officials responsive to the people