We’ve noticed a blog post and some Facebook drops on the Orange County Grand Jury this week. Per the union-funded Voice of OC in New Deadline for Orange County Grand Jury Applications:
Orange County’s Superior Court, facing an unusual shortage of applicants to serve on the 2013-2014 grand jury, has extended the application deadline to Friday. “We are far behind the number of applicants we normally receive by this time of the year,” said Glenda Sanders, assistant presiding judge of the Superior Court and chairwoman of the Grand Jury Recruitment-Selection Committee. The deadline for applications was supposed to be Jan. 18. The 19 grand jurors ultimately chosen will serve from July 1 through June 30, 2014. They will be paid $50 per day to a maximum $250 a week, plus mileage.
This might mean a couple of things. $50/day (with free parking) is barely $6 an hour for a full day (less than minimum wage), and we’ll presume that also privileges the juror to buy their own lunch in the Civic Center or somewhere nearby that Gustavo Arenello probably wouldn’t set foot in.
We did a little research and found that while their application isn’t overly intrusive or difficult to fill out, there’s no way to electronically file it as, apparently, they’ve not discovered email yet — and the thing has to be notarized at the applicant’s expense. That’s a lot of trouble to go through when one’s trying to volunteer to spend a lot of time in virtually free community service in one’s good clothes.
What’s more curious is honestly reviewing how much impact the Grand Jury actually has in Orange County. There’s an impressive list of documentation on their website — since 2011 they’ve investigated:
- City of Santa Ana-Special Assessment District
- City of Santa Ana 12/20/12, 9.3MB
- 2011-2012 Grand Jury Final Report 7/2/12, 17.34MB
- The Use of Government Influence On a Private Educational Institution 7/5/12, 6MB
- ARTIC- The Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center 6/29/12, 438KB
- Anti-Bullying Programs In Orange County Schools 6/29/12, 376KB
- AB 109: Public Safety Realignment: A Paradigm Change 6/29/12, 514KB
- City of Santa Ana Special Assessment District 6/28/12, 385KB
- Sex Trafficking of Girls 6/22/12, 452KB
- The Dissolution of Redevelopment: Where Have We Been? What Lies Ahead? 6/22/12, 1M
- Can the Consumer Price Index-Urban Keep Up With OCFA Wages? 6/20/12, 451KB
- Nesi-Ascon Site Study: The Saga Continues 6/20/12, 513KB
- Orange County Detention Facilities: Part I-Adult 6/20/12, 663KB
- Orange County Detention Facilities: Part II-Juvenile 6/20/12, 883KB
- Transparency Breaking Up Compensation Fog-But Why Hide Pension Costs? 6/14/12, 1M
- Elder Abuse: The Perfect Storm 6/14/12, 627KB
- Emergency Medical Response in Orange County 6/5/12, 279KB
- Orange County Vector Control District, “A Study in Little Known Services” 5/16/12, 483KB
- “Let There Be Light” Dragging Special Districts from the Shadows 4/27/12, 843KB
But did any of this really matter? We don’t remember that last time there was a screaming headline in the Register or LA Times about someone or something getting strung up after an aggressive under-the-bare-bulb interrogation by the Grand Jury. Are they feared by anyone in office? Or is this just a civic exercise that’s just expected of government and not questioned as to its value?
If we look back on some of the great local scandals of just the past few years — Mike Carona, the Great Park’s $220 million failure (and NIMBY theft of a decommissioned military airport), Larry Agran’s malfeasance (so ably reported by the OC Weekly for many years), the Clerk-Recorder’s affinity for unneeded real estate, Curt Pringle, high-speed rail, the illegal reallocation of Prop. 116 funds, Tom Mauk, Miguel Pulido’s friends in the streetcar business, County government’s internal personnel outrages (start with Carlos Bustamante, and keep going) — we don’t remember that any of them originated from the Grand Jury or that anyone got sweated in front of them.
Just like folks who won’t patronize a bum restaurant, perhaps the lack of juror applicants is a message to the Courts and county government that the Grand Jury isn’t very worthwhile.