OCGJ Concept of Operations (CONOPS)

With government corruption running wild from both Republicans and Democrats, you may ask what ordinary citizens can do to advance justice in American society.  When the political class controls prosecutors and judges, not to mention acts as gatekeeper for what a grand jury sees and what they don’t see, short of violent revolution, freedom loving citizens have but one choice, and that would be the “citizens grand jury,” a mechanism by which at best the citizens themselves can constitutionally enforce the law, and in the least bring fraud, waste, abuse and corruption into the bright sunshine.  That is the vision that brings Ohio Citizens Grand Jury to the people.

The grand jury dates back to at least 1166 when the people demanded King John recognize its mandate in the Magna Carta.  Later, the grand jury came to America providing a means for citizens to protest abuses by the king’s agents.  The U.S. Constitution mentions the grand jury in Article Five of the Bill of Rights:

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or an indictment of a grand jury…..”

A grand jury can serve public citizens in two ways.  First, it can limit the power of government prosecutors by voting for or against an indictment, and second, it has the power to make a presentment or indictment against public officials if there is probable cause to do so.  The problem is that all too often the political class hijacks the grand jury process, and uses it as a tool to build a firewall between insiders and the rule of law as well as selectively prosecute those who lack influence and power within the political class or the financial resources to push back on the system.  

Although many perceive the grand jury as being part of the judiciary (because it meets at the courthouse) or part of the executive branch (because it meets with a prosecutor), it is actually an independent institution adopted by the founders to protect the individual from prosecutorial misconduct.  Over time, the independence of the grand jury eroded when it became standard practice for the government prosecutor to be present in the grand jury room to present evidence personally.  With the government prosecutor present, the adversarial roles between the grand jury and the prosecutor weakened.  Grand juries tended to bond with the prosecutor, ultimately causing grand juries to become a rubber stamp for prosecutor’s indictments.

Although the U.S. Constitution mentions the grand jury in Article Five of the Bill of Rights, the grand jury is a pre-constitutional institution.  It is significant that the grand jury is not part of any of the three branches of the U.S. government. Washington attorney John H. Clarke wrote in a motion to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, “Although today the grand jury is more of a prosecutor’s panel, it is still a pre-constitutional institution, and is still a people’s panel, not captive or relegated by the constitution to a position within any branches… and it still serves as a vehicle for effective citizen participation in government.”

(Adapted and condensed from The Grand Jury by columnist Hugh Turley)