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3 Va. J. Soc. Pol'y & L. 67 (1995-1996)
The Voice of the Community: A Case for Grand Jury Independence

handle is hein.journals/vajsplw3 and id is 73 raw text is: THE VOICE OF THE COMMUNITY:' A CASE FOR GRAND
Susan W. Brenner2
Grand juries are the offspring offree government; they are
a protection against illfounded accusations .... 3
Our constitutional framers thought it a sound idea to create struc-
tures allowing lay citizens to check government excesses. The jury
system, one of the more obvious and enduring of such structures, was
included in our governmental framework because of the widespread
belief that the community's voice would ensure a more just judicial
system. Requiring community consent before charging a person with a
serious crime was considered so important that the grand jury structure
was immortalized in the Bill of Rights.
Despite its auspicious origins, the federal grand jury has become
little more than a rubber stamp, indiscriminately authorizing prosecu-
torial decisions. At best, grand juries are passive entities whose exis-
tence burdens judicial efficiency and needlessly drains federal funds.
At worst, grand juries' continued presence invidiously maintains the
illusion of a community voice. This lulls corrective action and permits
increased prosecutorial abuse.
The current status of state grand juries is more complex. Some
states have maintained and even increased grand jury independence.
Others have devolved into more passive institutions than their federal
The phrase has been used to describe the function of grand juries. See Barker v. Fox,
238 S.E.2d 235, 236 (W.Va. 1977) ([Tlhe grand jury serves as the voice of the community
in calling forth suspected criminals to answer for their alleged misdeeds.).
2 Professor of Law, University of Dayton.
3 United States v. Smith, 27 F. Cas. 1186, 1188 (C.C.D.N.Y. 1806) (No. 16341A).

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