Henry Groth knew immediately what he wanted to share with the community when approached by The Weekly outside his Santa Clara home: his 12-month experience serving on the Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury.
“Serving clearly reaffirmed my motivation to be an activist citizen and motivate others to become activist citizens,” said Groth, a native New Yorker and intellectual property lawyer who served from June 2017 to June 2018.
“You get to know more about the government. It’s a way to sink your teeth into it and have your say, besides your vote,” continued Groth. “It’s a great experience for folks who want to devote a lot of time and effort to their local communities.”
The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury is the civil watchdog of the county and cities within it. It may investigate any aspect of the government and make recommendations on how things might be changed to better serve communities.
The Grand Jury that Groth served on investigated “the issue of the day in Santa Clara County” — the critical need for affordable (below market rate) housing that cities are failing to meet. Its findings and recommendations are published in its June 21, 2018, report “Affordable Housing Crisis: Density Is Our Destiny.”
“Serving as a Grand Juror is not for everybody. You need to investigate what’s going on and write reports to try and improve it,” said Groth.
“You need energy, to be able to get along with others and to care about your community. It’s helpful to have a curiosity about how things work.”
After Groth applied to serve, he was interviewed by Superior Court judges, who nominated 30 prospective jurors. From this pool, 19 names were then randomly drawn.
“You develop great friendships with people who serve on the Grand Jury with you,” said Groth.
He added that one challenge for the Grand Jury is to attract more diverse and younger jurors.
“It would help the jury to be more effective if it were more diverse in race, gender and age,” said Groth.
“We’re very fortunate to live in this area. The level of intelligence and the way people accept diversity and work to get along with each other is remarkable.”
Applications are now being accepted from Santa Clara County residents to serve on the Civil Grand Jury beginning in the summer of 2021: https://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/grand_jury.shtml
Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a column where we casually interview people we meet in Santa Clara. The column hopes to highlight what makes Santa Clara special — the people who live, work and play here.