Grand Juries

I’m happy to be able to start a thread on today’s Staff Report Who invented Grand Juries? and to be able to congratulate Bricker on his ascension to the exalted ranks of the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board. Well done!!

A most informative answer!

I must ask, though… how does one end up as an SDStaff contributor?

Get in touch with Dex. Write some reports as a guest contributor. Wait.

The most amazing part of this new position? Access to some of Cecil’s surplussed phenomenal scholarly resources, such as the dog-eared copy of 16,000 Unbelievably Complicated Physics Experiments for the Home and Garden, With Answers. Now that the new edition is out, we at the SDSAB get to share the hand-me-down. I tell ya, it’s a thrill.

Not even a coffee cup?
Congratulations on your promotion, Exalted One, and thanks for all that you add to the Dope and the legal universe.


Congratulations, indeed. One suggestion for an otherwise excellent column: capitalize “County” in the reference to Jones County, about the prosecutor who was getting a few extra shekels and had to repay them.

I first noticed there was a [del]disturbance in the force[/del] change when read one of Bricker’s posts and saw the new title.
Just wanted to add my congrats.

I understand that people under investigation by the grand jury has a right to prevent evidence, or testify if they choose. Do they also have a right to be notified that they’re being investigated. If not, how do they find out?

Generally – and with the understanding that specific practice varies dramatically from state to state – there is no right to be told you’re the target of a grand jury inquiry. You find out if you’re indicted. If you’re investigated but never indicted, then you theoreticallly never find out.

Now, one exception - again as a general rule, if you are subpoenaed by a grand jury, they must generally tell you if you’re a target of their inquiry. But if they don’t want to talk to you, they don’t have to tell you they’re after you.

Congratulations,** Bricker**.

You mention in your report that from the first American grand juries assumed an oversight function. Interestingly enough, Henry Fielding alludes to this role in English Grand Juries in his Charge to the Grand Jury at the Westminster Sessions, 1749.

“To conclude, gentlemen, you will consider yourselves as now summoned to the execution of an office of the utmost importance to the well-being of this community; nor will you, I am confident, suffer that establishment, so wisely and carefully regulated, and so stoutly and zealously maintained by your wise and brave ancestors, to degenerate into mere form and shadow. Grand juries, gentlemen, are in reality the only censors of this nation. As such, the manners of the people are in your hands and in your hands only … if those immoralities of the people, which will sprout up in the best constitution, be not, from time to time, corrected by the hand of justice, they will at length grow up to the most enormous vices …”

Part of the duties of a Grand Jury at this time seem to have been akin to those of the office of Censor in ancient Rome. In the specific instance above, Fielding directs the jury’s attention to libellous pamphlets, brothel-keepers, and, in the passage below, certain houses of ill-repute.

“And, gentlemen, there are other houses, rather less scandalous {than brothels}, perhaps, but equally dangerous to the society; in which houses the manners of youths are greatly tainted and corrupted. These are those places of public rendezvous, where idle persons of both sexes meet in a very disorderly manner, often at improper hours, and sometimes in disguised habits … Such meetings are contra bonos mores; they are considered in law in the nature of a nuisance, and, as such, the keepers and maintainers of them may be presented and punished.”

It’s difficult to recognize the author of Tom Jones in that magisterial tone!

Congratulations, Bricker. Just FYI, here in CA, each County has it’s own Grand Jury, impaneled for a year. In most cases, that Grand Jury is the Civil Grand Jury, and a special short term Criminal Grand Jury will be impaneled out of the regular “jury pool”.

The Civil Grand Jury meets for most of a year, investigating various allegations of “waste, fraud and abuse”. It also must inspect any prisons or jails in it’s juristiction ( Although I don’t think they inspect Federal prisons)- and GJ inspections of various Youth facilities have led to a lot of changes. Here in San Jose, the GJ investigated the Mayor. The Civil Grand Juries here in CA have the right (rarely used) to do what amounts to “Impeaching” a Public Official, which usually leads to their removal from Office.

Cool quote, aldiboronti. It’s true: Grand juries in England and in the North American colonies followed similar developmental paths. The People’s Panel, cited in the report is a good basic resource on the influences involved. Where did you find that quote, btw?

It’s from an old edition of the Works of Henry Fielding, published in 1767. Vol. XII, *A Charge to the Grand Jury of Westminster, June 29th, 1749

(I tried to find it online, to save a little typing, but no luck.)

Great staff report!

I noticed the citation of Mark Kadish’s law review article on grand juries. I had Mark as my professor for Evidence class in law school. He was very good.

Actually, upon review, it turns out I had Marc Kadish as my Evidence prof at Chicago Kent, not the Mark Kadish of Georgia State University cited in the acticle. Duh.

Though I’m sure he’s a fine professor as well.

Yup. Last year, I came this close to being empaneled on the Napa County CGJ, but with a new baby on the way, a toddler in the house, and a new drug product reaching P3 trials, I simply couldn’t make the time commitment. A shame: as an ASQ certified qualiy auditor, I felt uniquely qualified for the task, there just too many balls in the air already.