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206. Court Commissioners. — The superior court of every county in the state may appoint one court commissioner, except that of San Francisco, which may appoint six. Each commissioner serves during the pleasure of the appointing power and receives fees for his services. A court commissioner is an official assistant of the court in certain matters :
1. As previously stated, cases may be submitted to him as referee under conditions mentioned in the law.
2. In case of the absence or inability to act on the part of the judge of the court, he may “hear and determine ex parte motions for orders and writs, except orders and writs of injunction.” An ex parte motion is one based on evidence submitted by only one side in a controversy. On such a motion a temporary writ may be issued if the matter is shown to be urgent.
3. During the progress of a trial he may be required to investigate any matter of fact not brought out in the pleadings, concerning which the court desires information. He must conduct his investigations according to law and must report his findings to the court.
4. He may be directed to examine any bond or undertaking that may be required of any person in any proceeding in the superior court, and to "examine the sureties 1 thereon when an exception has been taken to their sufficiency.” The law confers upon him the powers of a notary public.
1 The sureties are the persons who sign the bond or undertaking. Bonds or undertakings are required in many instances. Bail is a common example. Bonds sufficient to cover the costs of a trial may be required of the plaintiff at the beginning of the action; or when a temporary injunction is applied for, the plaintiff may be required to furnish bonds in sufficient amount to cover any loss that the defendant may sustain because of the injunction if it is later found that the plaintiff is not entitled to it. Many other examples could be given.
207. The Grand Jury.' — A grand jury must be summoned by the superior court in each county at least once a year, and it may be summoned any number of times. Its members are selected in the following manner: In January a suitable number of persons are selected from different parts of the county, by the judge or judges of the court, to serve as grand jurors for the year. The number must be at least twenty-five, and may be fifty, seventy-five, one hundred, or more. The names are given to the county clerk, who writes them on separate pieces of he places in a small box known as the grand jury box. When the court decides to summon the grand jury, the clerk in the presence of the court draws from the box by lot from twenty-five to thirty names as the judge directs.? These names are given to the sheriff, who summons the jurors to appear in court at a certain time. When they appear, those who are able to present good cause for not serving may be excused. If nineteen remain, they constitute the grand jury; if less than that, number, others are drawn from the box; if more than nineteen, that number is selected by lot from those that remain. Provision is made whereby the district attorney, or any person accused of a crime triable by the superior court, may object to any juror and prevent his selection, if good cause is shown; but this is seldom done. The persons selected are sworn in as grand jurors; the judge appoints one of them to act as foreman, and instructs them as to their duties. Their most important duties are as follows:
1. To inquire carefully into the official conduct of all county officers and boards, especially of those that handle public money. They must examine the books and records of every county office and institution, and may employ an expert accountant to assist them. They must report to the court as to “ the facts they have found, with such recommendations as they may deem proper and fit."1 If they discover that public money has been unlawfully spent, they must direct the district attorney to bring suit to recover it. If they discover that any officer is guilty of "willful or corrupt misconduct," not amounting to crime, they must direct the district attorney to institute proceedings to remove him from office; but if the misconduct amounts to a crime, they must find an indictment against him. They must also investigate any charges that may be made against city, township, school district, or other public officers in the county, and if they discover evidence of misconduct, they must act as they would in the case of a county officer.
i Penal Code, $ 894 seq.
2 In counties having more than one judge, one of them is selected to summon, select, instruct, and receive the final report of the grand jury.
2. To irivestigate crimes that are committed in the county and that are triable in the superior court. Many such crimes are not investigated by the grand jury because they are prosecuted by information. Some, however, are brought before it by the district attorney; and it may investigate any alleged crime on its own motion. If the investigation discovers sufficient guilt, it finds an indictment against the persons whom it considers guilty. The indictment is filed in court by the foreman and the accused is prosecuted before a trial jury.
3. To inquire into the case of every person imprisoned in the county jail on a criminal charge and not indicted,
1 The report consists of comments favorable or unfavorable as the case may be, and recommendations as to changes that should be made.
and into the condition and management of the public prisons within the county.
The meetings of the grand jury are held in secret. The district attorney is the only person not a member who may be present, except in answer to a summons or a request from the grand jury. When a crime is being investigated, the accused may or may not be permitted to introduce testimony in his behalf. Twelve members must concur in arriving at any conclusion. The grand jury may meet every day, or possibly only once or twice a week, and the time required to do its work may be several weeks, or several months. 208. Trial Juries. — In January of each year,
the superior court of each county decides upon the number of trial jurors that will be required during the year. In counties having a population amounting to one hundred thousand, the superior court selects the jurors; in other counties they are selected by boards of supervisors. The names are given to the county clerk, who places them, on separate pieces of paper, in the trial jury box. In the more populous counties, the jurors are divided into groups called panels, each panel serving for a certain definite time. The names forming each panel are drawn from the box by the clerk in the presence of the court, and are usually placed in another box. This is done at the beginning of the period for which the panel is to serve. When a jury is needed,
, the clerk in the presence of the court draws from the trial jury box, or the panel box, as many names as the judge directs. These are given to the sheriff, who notifies the persons when to appear in court. When they appear, they
1 Penal Code, $1055 seq.
2 In San Francisco 1200 jurors are selected, and in Los Angeles county about 2500. In both places names are drawn from the box in panels of thirty, forty, or more, as they are needed. In Alameda county 400 are selected, and a panel of 10ɔ names is drawn every three months beginning in January. These 100 are liable for jury service any time during the three months,
MISCELLANEOUS POINTS RESPECTING JURIES
are questioned one by one by the attorneys for each side, in order to determine whether they can try the case“ well and truly” and without prejudice. Some are excused, some accepted, the process continuing until the jury is made up. The number must be twelve in all felony cases; but in misdemeanor cases and in civil actions it may be a smaller number.1
If the jury cannot be secured from the first group summoned, another drawing from the box is ordered, and this may be repeated until all the names are exhausted. If the jury is still incomplete, the sheriff is directed to summon other persons from the citizenship of the county. The order issued by the judge directing that men be summoned for jury service is technically calleď a venire, but the word is commonly used as a collective noun to designate the men summoned. When a jury is required in an inferior court, citizens are summoned, in a less formal manner, from the township or city as the case may be, by the constable or the court bailiff.
209. Miscellaneous Points respecting Juries. — Grand and trial jurors in the superior court receive each two or three dollars a day; but jurors in inferior courts, and members of coroners' juries, serve without pay. A coroners' jury, consisting of twelve or a smaller number, is usually made up from men who happen to be in the immediate neighborhood.
Any man 2 may serve on a grand or trial jury who is an American citizen, twenty-one years of age, and a taxpayer; who has lived in the state one year and in the county ninety days; who understands English, and is possessed of natural faculties; who is ordinarily intelligent,
1 See section 7, article I of the constitution.
2 When women were granted the ballot in California it was at first assumed by many that this rendered them liable to jury service, but the attorney-general of the state ruled otherwise. Before they could serve as jurors a change in the law (not in the constitution) would be necessary.