RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Riverside County Superior Court Presiding Judge John Vineyard today extended the current term of the county’s civil grand jury to Aug. 31 because of difficulties convening a new jury by the end of the current fiscal year amid the coronavirus emergency.

The 19-member jury currently in session was impaneled July 1, 2019 and was due to end its business on June 30. However, with most of the county’s courts either shut down or operating on curtailed schedules due to COVID-19 precautions, complications seating a new jury required a change in terms, court officials said.

The court has extended the deadline for residents to submit applications for consideration to be part of the next jury until June 30, with the goal of having the body in place exactly two months later. The previous deadline was March 27.

The 2020-21 jury will be in session until June 30, 2021, officials said.

Jurors are tasked with conducting independent inquiries based on their own initiative or citizen complaints about government agencies. In the past, juries have scrutinized multiple county departments, as well the supervisors’ offices. Several investigations have led to policy changes.

Applicants must pass a background check, and those prospects who qualify will ultimately be interviewed by members of a selection committee. That panel will submit 25-30 names for nomination by a judge.

According to officials, every effort is made to seat jurors from all areas of the county to ensure fair representation.

To be considered, an applicant must:
— be an American citizen;
— be 18 years old or older;
— be a county resident for at least a year;
— have “sound judgment and fair character”;
— have an interest in community affairs;
— have a working knowledge of computers;
— speak English;
— be available for up to four meetings a week;
— not currently be serving as a trial juror;
— not be an elected official; and
— have no felony convictions.

Jurors are not salaried but do receive a small per diem payment to cover expenses. There is also compensation for travel.

Applications can be completed online at http://riverside.courts.ca.gov/. Users need to select the “Grand Jury” option under “Divisions” at the top of the homepage and find the application there. Paper applications may also be requested and will be mailed to those who are interested, officials said.

The Court Executive Office can be reached at 951-777-3163.