The Grand Jury is a body of 19 citizens, independent of any political or special interest group. NO law degree or specific credential is necessary to be a Grand Jury member though an avid interest in preserving honest and proper conduct of ALL governmental agencies within Kern County is essential. Grand Jurors should also possess the desire to insure that all monies, within these areas of government, are being handled prudently and in the best interest of Kern County residents. The Grand Jury’s purpose is to serve and assist the people of Kern County.
The basic requirements for a Grand Juror are as follows:
- Are citizens of the United States
- Have resided in the County of Kern for the past year
- Are 18 years of age or older
- Have sufficient knowledge of the English language
- Have not served as a Grand Juror in any other county in California within the past year
- Have never been convicted of malfeasance in office or of any felony
- Are not currently serving as an elected public official
In addition, secrecy and complete confidentiality are the sworn commitment of all Grand Jury members. This commitment is to assure the protection and privacy of anyone coming before the jury with, or in response to, a complaint.
Grand Jury recruitment occurs annually, typically starting right after the holidays and running from early January through mid-April. Each year the Superior Court solicits applications for citizens to serve on the Grand Jury.
Pursuant to the Penal Code, Title 4, Sections 888 et seq, the Superior Court is charged with nominating qualified citizens to serve as members of the Grand Jury. The Kern County Superior Court follows those procedures. The objective is to obtain a pool representative of the ethnic and cultural diversity of our county at large. The recruitment and selection of qualified jurors is the most critical factor in determining how effective any Grand Jury will become.
Citizens interested in Grand Jury service must submit an Application for Nomination. A background check is then made to determine if the applicant is qualified. A committee of Superior Court Judges interviews each qualified applicant to discuss their interests, qualifications, and the duties they will be expected to undertake. The Superior Court Judges make their nominations.
In the spring of each year, there is a drawing by the Clerk of the Court which reduces the list of prospective jurors to the thirty people who will be in the final drawing. In the third week of June of each year the final random drawing is held in Superior Court, Metropolitan Division, Department One. Before the drawing begins, the Presiding Judge identifies which members from the previous Grand Jury he or she wishes to hold over as members of the new Grand Jury. The law provides that the Presiding Judge may hold over as many as ten members from the previous Grand Jury. Once this is done, a drawing is held to select the rest of the 19-member jury plus alternates. The purpose of selecting alternates is so that they may replace any juror unable to complete a full term. The new Grand Jury is then sworn and instructed.
The Grand Jury has the power and duty to examine the function and performance of public offices and officers. They report their findings and can make recommendations for changes. This area is referred to as their civil or "watch dog" function. They also have the power and duty to inquire into possible public offenses, misconduct in office by public officers, and to determine whether to return indictments charging the commission of felonies. This area of responsibility is referred to as their criminal function.
Each Grand Jury is seated for one year from July 1st to June 30th. The Grand Jury meets four days per week during its one-year term. The time requirement is approximately 20 hours per week. Offices for conducting Grand Jury business are provided on the 6th floor of the Superior Court Building, 1415 Truxtun Avenue, Bakersfield.
Members of the Grand Jury receive a daily stipend based on hours worked. They are also reimbursed for personal vehicle usage at the prevailing County mileage rate.