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American Grand Jury Course

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Course: American Grand Jury

A Self-Directed Course

Presented by:

  • Sheriff Dar Leaf, Barry County, Michigan
  • Brent Allan Winters, Attorney at Law

The prerecorded course is presented in 12 sessions.

The course includes reading assignments.

Those who complete the course will receive a Certificate of Completion.

Course Background

The United States Supreme Court has held that the federal Grand Jury are a kind of fourth branch of government, subject to neither the courts (judges) nor the executive (prosecutors). Nowadays, the courts, Congress, and the executive branch of the federal government, nonetheless, all attempt to assert control over rules governing the federal Grand Jury: recently, the Supreme Court has made rulings, congressional commissions have promulgated findings and rules, and the President’s justice department has issued orders concerning the Grand Jury; thus, the law on the matter remains uncertain.  In nearly all cases, the prosecutor controls the federal Grand Jury.

The Grand Jury are of ancient origin in England, but in 1933, Parliament discontinued its use. On the other hand, Americans, in recent decades, have increased the use of the federal Grand Jury. Federal courts are never to meddle with the Grand Jury, but are to serve as enforcers of Grand Jury subpoenas and as guardians of the secrecy of Grand Jury proceedings.

Congress has shown concern that the original purpose of the Grand Jury—to protect the individual from unwarranted state aggression while investigating crime—is now overthrown: the federal Grand Jury have become a primary sword of the prosecutor and are no longer a shield for the people. A reading of federal Grand Jury transcripts often reveals the Grand Jury’s passive dependence upon prosecuting attorneys. In fact, Congress’s Hyde Commission concluded that the federal Grand Jury are prone to use as a rubber stamp for the United States attorney; with the Grand Jury, he “could indict a ham sandwich.”

—Brent Allan Winters, Excellence of the Common Law § 4.3.8 (2009)