The Mariposa Grand Jury is a judicial body consisting of 11 citizens. It is impaneled to act as an "arm of the court," as authorized by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of California, to be a voice of the people and conscience of the community. A Civil Grand Jury is impaneled in Mariposa County each year in July. A Criminal Grand Jury may be impaneled in the County if deemed necessary by the Superior Court Judge.
The Grand Jury is charged with a grave responsibility. It serves as an ombudsperson for the citizens of Mariposa County. The entire population of the county is affected by an active Civil Grand Jury. Malevolent and unfaithful public servants feel uneasy because unlawful acts may be uncovered, while honest citizens and conscientious public servants are reassured that there is a "watchdog" over inappropriate and illegal activity. Therefore, Civil Grand Jury Service calls for diligence, impartiality, courage, and responsibility.
The Grand Jury submits meaningful solutions to a wide range of problems. It is a volunteer, fact-finding body with the potential to create positive and constructive changes. The Grand Jury is an investigative body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. Although the responsibilities of the Grand Jury are many and diverse, the three prominent functions include:
A. Civil Government Oversight
This is the major function of the Mariposa County Grand Jury, and considerable effort is devoted to these responsibilities. The grand jury may examine all aspects of county government and special districts within the county to insure that the best interest of Mariposa citizens are being served. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods, and systems used by county government to determine whether more efficient and economical programs may be employed. The Grand Jury is also authorized to:
Inspect and audit books, records and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent;
Inspect the financial records of special districts in Mariposa County;
Inquire into and inspect the condition of jails and detention centers in Mariposa County;
Investigate any charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or County employees.
B. Citizen Complaints
As part of the civil function, the Grand Jury receives many complaints from citizens alleging mistreatment by public officials, suspicions of misconduct or governmental inefficiencies. All complaints received from citizens are reviewed and acknowledged in writing. If the subject of the complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury, and the Grand Jury as a whole sees fit, the complaint will be investigated. All complaints to the Grand Jury are kept confidential.
C. Criminal Investigations
Occasionally, under certain circumstances, a special Criminal Grand Jury is selected to hold hearings to determine whether evidence presented by the District Attorney is of a sufficient nature to warrant a person to stand trial in a court. The types of cases presented to the Grand Jury by the District Attorney usually include:
Cases involving public officials or employees
Cases involving police officers
Cases in which the statute of limitations is about to expire
White collar crimes, and
Other cases the District Attorney deems appropriate
The grand jury is also authorized to:
1. Inspect and audit books, records and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent;
2. Inspect financial records of districts in Mariposa County;
3. Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers;
4. Inquire into any charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.