Civil Grand Jury asks for new members
Special to the Sierra Sun
The Nevada County Civil Grand Jury is looking for a few good men and women.
The grand jury currently has only 16 jurors owing to illness or family obligations, the most oft cited reason for attrition.
“But because of the pandemic and other reasons, and in an attempt to avoid a midterm recruitment, Judge Thomas Anderson has permitted up to 23 members to compensate for possible turnover,” said Kathleen Williams, grand jury foreperson.
Despite best intentions, even the ranks of volunteer organizations have experienced a staffing crunch. That’s led the grand jury to seek at least three citizens who are interested in committing for the remainder of the spring term in order to field a full panel. The new jurors will serve until the end of the jury year on June 30.
The names of those who desire to be carried over will be submitted to Anderson in May to serve for the 2022-23 jury year. The 19 serve as sworn jurors. Additionally, Anderson will approve several sworn alternates. They attend the meetings, trainings and abide by the same code of confidentiality regarding investigations, but they have no voting power.
“But if an opening should arise, they’re ready to step in,” said Williams. “Around the May time frame, we’ll give an orientation and people can let us know if they’re willing to commit and go forward with the jury year.”
Prospective jurors do not necessarily need to know about how county government works or the specific authority of a jurisdiction. But the qualities they do seek are honesty, logical thinking and impartiality. Also, computer skills are valuable along with research skills, as jurors will have to ask questions and research a variety of topics and places.
The grand jury is interested in drawing more people from the Truckee area, as they are more attuned to eastern county and bring a different perspective.
“They have some different issues and agencies,” said Williams. “We want to make sure they have representation and we would value their contribution.”
Each of the 19 sworn jurors will meet 10 to 25 hours per week — maybe more if writing a report — on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Each juror is asked to pick two committees they prefer to work on, though may have to accept an assignment as the more popular ones fill up fast.
Committees meet once a week on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. They include finance, health and environment, law enforcement, local government, schools and libraries, ad hoc (only as needed), and special districts.
Members are paid $15 per meeting and reimbursed at the federal mileage rate for travel.
“The grand jury in California is a unique institution and allows ordinary citizens to get involved with their local government agencies,” said Williams. “I have found it to be the most interesting thing I’ve done in my career.”
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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