EDITORIAL: Improve Fresno County with grand jury service

April 27, 2014 

Judge Robert Oliver, chair of the Fresno County Superior Court Jury Oversight Committee says, "the most important qualification to serve on the grand jury is an interest in improving county conditions."

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You can help our community. The Fresno County grand jury is accepting applications for jurors for the 2014-2015 term through May 2.

A county civil grand jury is composed of 19 citizens, who provide a "watchdog" role over government operations.

The jury's work makes government more efficient and exposes problems. And sometimes it sorts out the truth about political claims dividing our community.

In addition, the grand jury is mandated by law to respond to citizens' complaint letters and to inquire into the condition and management of public detention facilities within the county.

Not only do grand jury reports garner media attention, but the law requires that government agencies respond to the grand jury's findings and recommendations.

The Fresno Grand Jurors Association and the Fresno County Superior Court want the grand jury to represent the entire county -- not just Fresno and Clovis. We urge residents living outside the metro area to apply.

The minimum qualifications to serve include being a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a Fresno County resident for at least one year and the ability to speak and understand English.

But, as Judge Robert Oliver, chair of the Superior Court Jury Oversight Committee, said in a Letter to The Editor on Sunday: the "most important qualification to serve on the grand jury is an interest in improving county conditions."

And we believe that Oliver hit the bull's-eye when he said, "Because the grand jury investigates and reports on civil matters related to Fresno County government, it allows ordinary citizens to voice concerns and hold local government accountable on a variety of matters. If you ever wanted to improve government operations, this is your opportunity.

"Your experiences give you unique skills and perspectives that could significantly contribute to the grand jury's work."

Jurors serve a one-year term, which runs from July 1 through June 30. The grand jury meets about 20 to 25 hours a week. Jurors receive nominal compensation and mileage reimbursement.

The real reward, Oliver says, "is leading a process that identifies problems and solutions affecting our area, now and in the future."

For information on how to apply, call Sherry Spears at the court's Jurors Services Division, 457-1605, or visit the website at www.fresno.courts.ca.gov, click on Jury, then Grand Jury. The website has an excellent video explaining grand jury service.

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