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Frequently Asked Questions - Grand Jury


San Mateo County residents who are interested in participating in the Grand Jury process are encouraged to apply. The statutory requirements are that each Grand Juror:

All proposals for Grand Jury inquiries shall be in writing, dated, signed by the proposer(s), submitted to the foreman, and include the following information in as much detail as the proposer feels warranted;

  • Be a citizen of the United States;
  • Be at least 18 years of age;
  • Reside in San Mateo County for at least one year before being selected;
  • Have ordinary intelligence and good character;
  • Possess a working knowledge of the English language;
  • Not presently serving as a trial juror;
  • Not having been a Grand Juror within one year of being selected (jurors may be held over for a second year);
  • Not having been convicted of a felony or of malfeasance in office;
  • Not presently serving as an elected official.

Applications for service are received by the Jury Commissioner and reviewed by the Grand Jury Judge. Effort is made to impanel an ideal jury of qualified men and women of diverse socio-economic, ethnic, educational backgrounds, representative geographical areas of the county, as well as age groups. By court policy, and at the discretion of the Grand Jury Judge, up to seven members of the previous year's jury may serve a second term to provide continuity. A total of 19 people serve on the Grand Jury. From the remaining candidates, a drawing is held to provide for alternates.

San Mateo County jurors are sworn in and begin their one-year term commencing the first day of July. The Grand Jury Judge appoints a foreperson to preside at meetings. The jury then chooses the remaining officers and organizes itself into committees. Each committee sets its own program of committees, investigations and interviews. The committee then investigates various departments and functions of local government as it chooses and reviews compliance with previous Civil Grand Jury recommendations. Department heads are interviewed, on-site visits are made and departments' strengths and weaknesses are investigated.

Some subjects to be investigated are brought about by letters from citizens regarding complaints of alleged mistreatment by officials, suspicion of misconduct or governmental inefficiencies. Such complaints are kept confidential. If the situation warrants, and after investigation, the Grand Jury may make appropriate recommendations for action.

A large portion of the public mistakenly believes that an individual appearing before the Civil Grand Jury, particularly a public official, suggests malfeasance or misfeasance. It should be clearly understood that it is the constitutional responsibility of the Grand Jury to review the conduct of county government each year. This entails having public officials appear before the jury to provide information to the jury relative to their departments or offices.

While Grand Jurors are a part of the Judicial System and are considered as officers of the court, the Grand Jury is an entirely independent body. The Grand Jury Judge, the District Attorney, the County Counsel, and the State Attorney General act as advisors, but cannot limit actions of the jury except for illegality.

Because of the confidential nature of a Grand Jury's work, much of it must be done in closed session. Members of a Grand Jury are sworn to secrecy, thus assuring all who appear that their complaints will be handled in an entirely confidential manner. No one may be present during sessions of the Grand Jury except those specified by law (Penal Code 939), and the minutes of its meetings may not be inspected by anyone, nor can its records be subpoenaed.

The law provides that every Grand Juror must keep secret all evidence adduced before the Grand Jury, anything said by a Grand Juror or the manner in which a grand juror may have voted on a matter. By law it is a misdemeanor to violate the secrecy of the Grand Jury room. A Grand Juror must not confide any information concerning testimony of witnesses or action of the jury even to a spouse or close friend. "Leaks" concerning Grand Jury proceedings inevitably will impair or even destroy the effectiveness of Grand Jury efforts.

Mid-year and final reports are prepared that describe problems and contain findings and recommendations. Responses are required within 90 days from any public agency, and 60 days from any elective county officer or agency head.

Any matters referred to the Civil Grand Jury for possible investigation must be submitted in writing with supporting background information and documents. If documents are available, but too voluminous to mail, indicate that in correspondence. 

Correspondence should be directed to:

Grand Jury Foreperson
c/o Court Executive Office
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063-1655


Interested citizens who wish to serve on the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury should direct correspondence to:

Grand Jury Judge
c/o Court Executive Officer
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063-1655

  • Entity Full name
  • Entity having charge of the subject of the proposed inquiry or of the entity to be investigated.
  •  Issues
  • A list of specific operations, policies or program areas that are proposed for inquiry.
  •  Background
  • Why should this inquiry be undertaken? What benefits might accrue from it? What facts or information explain the importance of or reason for an inquiry?
  • Proposer Name and role or association of person proposing the inquiry, plus any facts, relationships or associations that explain or enlighten the proposer's interest in the inquiry. Why are you proposing this? Have you any direct or indirect interest in the inquiry?

    Citizen Suggestion for Investigation Form

(Apple users attempting to utilize this PDF fillable form may experience formatting errors (i.e., some questions may have words hyphenated in improper places, etc. This problem is due to the different protocols for the Adobe Reader program vs. Apple's "Preview" application (as well as opening the PDF through a web browser). We apologize for the inconvenience. Please note that the information you provide in the fillable form will still be readable and available to the Grand Jury.)
Mail Proposals to:

San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury
400 County Center
Redwood City, CA 94063-1655

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