Grand Juries

Resource Guide

In the federal system, regular grand juries hear evidence and consider indictments submitted by a federal prosecutor to determine whether probable cause to charge the defendant exists, while special grand juries perform an investigatory function in federal criminal cases. Within the state system, grand juries are used in varying degrees and functions; while the scope of activities usually includes criminal indictments and investigations, other roles include investigating public officials and public buildings or examining larger crime problems. The existence of grand juries remains controversial, as many feel they are no longer necessary in today’s justice system.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.

Articles and Reports

Todd Lochner. Impaneling Multiple Juries in Civil Suits. (2005). Justice System Journal 26, no. 2.

This article discusses Impaneling multiple juries in civil suits may serve as an appropriate, innovative strategy to overcome insurmountable evidentiary problems when there are multiple defendants with somewhat conflicting interests.

G. Thomas Munsterman. Review of Jonakait, The American Jury System. (2005). Justice System Journal 26, no. 2.

This article discusses the American jury system as it relates to peremptory challenges, challenges for cause, vicinage, jury instructions, nullification and many other topics of interest.

George J. Edwards, Jr. The Grand Jury: An Essay. (2009).

So far as the common law principles relating to the grand jury are in force in the various states, the law and the decisions thereon are generally uniform. This essay discusses the law in relation to grand juries among the different states.

Evaluations and Criticisms

Roger Roots. Grand Juries Gone Wrong. (2010). Richmond Journal of Law & Public Interest, Vol. 14, p. 331.

This article advocates a bold reformation of Rules 6 and 7 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure so that prosecutors would be barred from participating in grand jury investigations except when expressly invited by a grand jury to do so. This proposal would be most consistent with grand jury practices of the Founding period and the original intent behind the Fifth Amendment’s Grand Jury Clause.

Roger A. Fairfax, Jr. Grand Jury Innovation: Towards a Functional Makeover of the Ancient Bulwark of Liberty. (2010). William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal vol. 19.

This Article seeks to take the grand jury on the offensive. Instead of merely proposing ways to enhance the grand jury’s performance of traditional roles, or defending it against calls for its elimination, this Article sketches a blueprint for the grand jury’s functional makeover.

Bremson, Francis L. et al. The Investigative Grand Jury in Alaska . (1987). Anchorage: Alaska Judicial Council In response to the state legislature, the Alaska Judicial Council studied the strengths and weaknesses of the state's grand jury system.
Brenner, Susan W. The Voice of the Community: A Case for Grand Jury Independence. (Fall 1995). Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law 3: 67


Kadish, Mark. Behind the Locked Door of the American Grand Jury: Its History, Its Secrecy, and Its Process. (Fall 1996). Florida State University Law Review 24, no. 1: 1
Edwards, George J. Jr. The Grand Jury. (1906). Philadelphia: George T. Bisel Company

State Information

Rottman, David, et al. State Court Organization, 2004: Part VI <i>The Jury</i>. (2006). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics: 213 Provides state-by-state information about the grand jury system, including the number of jurors, number needed to indict, whether indictment is required for felony prosecutions, and a brief description of the scope of the grand jury’s activities.