Proposal to Establish the Federal Civil Grand Jury System in America:Effective Civic Oversight of Federal Agencies and Government PersonnelHiroshi Fukurai1* and Zhuoyu Wang2
- *Corresponding Author:
- Hiroshi Fukurai
Professor of Sociology & Legal Studies
University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
Received Date: December 05, 2013; Accepted Date: February 10, 2014; Published Date: February 12, 2014
Citation: Fukurai H, Wang Z (2014) Proposal to Establish the Federal Civil Grand Jury System in America: Effective Civic Oversight of Federal Agencies and Government Personnel. J Civil Legal Sci 3:112. doi:10.4172/2169-0170.1000112
Copyright: © 2014 Fukurai H, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
French jurist and philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once declared that trial by jury is the instrument of the sovereignty of people and contributes to insure the best administration of justice in the government. However, the U.S. Government has never created an effective civic investigative institution to directly check and monitor the function of government agencies and their personnel. This paper then examines the possible establishment of a federal civil grand jury system in America. The proposal to institute the civil function of the federal grand jury is extremely important and timely, especially given the fact the former CIA IT consultant and whistleblower Edward Snowden recently exposed massive illegal surveillance of hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and around the globe by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence sources in the federal government. Today, the criminal function of the grand jury system at both state and federal levels has been firmly established by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Nonetheless, the civil function of the federal grand jury has lost its ability to inquire into non-criminal matters, to investigate political corruption or state inefficiencies, or to issue official reports on their civil investigation of officers and agencies in the federal government. Similarly, the overwhelming majority of the individual states have also lost much of their civic oversight role of the grand jury. Today only handful of states, including California and Nevada, continue to require the annual empanelment of the grand jury to conduct the civil investigation of the actions of local governments and their officials. The paper begins with the historical genealogy of the grand jury system in England and the U.S. and chronicles citizens’ historical struggles against the government’s abuse of power and authority. The second section examines the important socio-legal function of civil grand juries in California and their democratic impact on citizen empowerment in local communities. Finally the paper provides a set of recommendations and proposals to establish the federal civil grand jury system in the U.S.