Want To Be On A Civil Grand Jury? You Can!

The San Francisco Superior Court has put out a call for residents to apply to serve on the city’s Civil Grand Jury for the upcoming year.

The Grand Jury is made up of 19 members who look into city government by investigating its departments, agencies and officials during a year of service.

The next jury will serve from July 1 through June 30, 2015.

The jury selects its own topics for investigation and puts together reports, which are sent to the appropriate department heads and are reviewed by a committee from the city’s Board of Supervisors.

Dan Chesir, 71, currently sits on this year’s jury. He retired about a year and a half ago and saw the jury as a way to get involved in local government.

With a background as a lawyer and working at Kaiser Permanente’s legal department, he said his fellow jurors have varied experience with some still working, others self-employed and some with backgrounds in law, hospitality, business insurance and other careers.

He said he puts in up to 15 volunteer hours a week to the jury.

There is a small $15 per diem jurors receive for days attending meetings.

To choose which topics to focus their investigations on, Chesir said “it was a collective effort” that took about three months of discussion. As the jury is still in session, Chesir was unable to disclose any details of the jury’s work.

With a report of their findings slated to come out in June, Chesir said his commitment is ramping up with time spent putting together reports after doing research, touring facilities, auditing records and interviewing department heads and workers “familiar with how city government works.” He said his committee also connected with workers in the private sphere who are experts in their fields.

“One of things I’m really enjoying, frankly,” he said, “is sitting around a table with fellow residents of San Francisco and talking about things affecting the city.”

He called it “serious talk” that he finds enjoyable.

“We’re making what we think are realistic recommendations” that may lead to legislative action at the Board of Supervisors or push forward changes at the departments that are affected, he said.

Aside from the experience working with department leaders and the insider look into the city, Chesir said a “secondary benefit” was “meeting people I never would have met before.”

Chesir, who lives in the Castro District, said his fellow members come from all over the city, but he worries that Latino and Asian representation is lacking.

He encouraged members of those communities, and other minority groups, to apply to the jury.

The deadline to apply is April 30. Only San Francisco residents over the age of 18 can apply.

Superior Court judges interview qualified applicants and recommend a pool of 30 jurors. From that pool, 19 members are randomly selected and the remaining 11 serve as alternate members.

More information about serving and the application is available online at http://civilgrandjury.sfgov.org.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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  • Serena Bardell

    As an alumna of the SF Grand Jury, I’d like to second and add to the comments above: California is unique in having a constitutional obligation to seat grand juries in all 58 counties every year to act as watchdogs for the rest of their communities in overseeing both departments and offices to insure that dollars are carefully spent and civil employees at all levels following their work rules. It’s not only like grad school for participants but also an excellent means of congratulating or offering recommendations for positive change to those doing the counties’ work.
    The state grand jurors’ group offers an intensive two-day workshop to new grand jurors so they will “hit the ground running”; many, if not most, grand juries check to make sure previous juries’ recommendations that were accepted are in fact being carried out.
    Serving as a grand juror is a unique way to exercise “small ‘d'” democracy.

  • Serena Bardell

    One of California’s greatest sources of pride