The Santa Clara County Superior Court is looking for volunteers to serve on the 2020-2021 civil grand jury panel, a group that takes a critical look at how local governments can better serve the public.
An extension of the county Superior Court, the civil grand jury is part of the judicial branch of government that surveils all aspects of county and city government by conducting investigations in an area of its choice or based on citizen complaints. The group's research is compiled into a report with its key findings and recommendations.
Santa Clara resident Henry Groth, who was always interested in government but had a limited understanding of how it worked, experienced firsthand the various aspects of local government after volunteering on the 2017-2018 civil grand jury.
"It's a good way to get people involved in government and develop a better understanding of the behind the scenes work," Groth said. "I got to meet my fellow citizens and help out the government."
The grand jury is responsible for accounting government budgets by examining audit books, records and fiscal spending, according to Groth, who added that serving on the panel often leads to further community involvement.
Groth served as the primary investigator for a report released in June 2018 that highlighted how cities within the county were or weren't addressing the lack of affordable housing and suggested ways they can close the gap.
"The Civil Grand Jury plays an important watchdog function for Santa Clara County," Presiding Judge Ryan said in the news release. "It is vitally important that we have a diverse group of people with different experiences, skills and abilities who are willing to assume the important task of serving on the grand jury."
Groth also highlighted the importance of having a diverse jury so that issues can be seen with different perspectives representing the community they serve.
There should be more effort to include more young people, women, people of color and LGBT members, Groth said.
Applicants must be 18 years or older, a United States citizen and resident of Santa Clara County. Candidates must dedicate an average of 25 hours a week for service on the grand jury during the one-year term, which begins on June 18.
The deadline to submit an application is April 1. For an application form and more information, visit scscourt.org.