NACDL Commission to Reform the Federal Grand Jury

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) established "The Commission to Reform the Federal Grand Jury," a bi-partisan, blue-ribbon panel that included current and former prosecutors, as well as academics and defense attorneys. The unanimous conclusions and proposals of this diverse group are contained in the widely-distributed publication Federal Grand Jury Reform Report & 'Bill of Rights'. Among the critical, workable reforms detailed in that report are: (1) the right to counsel for grand jury witnesses who are not receiving immunity; (2) an obligation to present evidence which may exonerate the target or subject of the offense; and (3) the right for targets or subjects to testify. In response to reported abuses, several states, New York and Massachusetts among them, have successfully added these well-considered features to their grand jury systems.

ABA Grand Jury Reform Principles

According to the American Bar Association (ABA), the grand jury has come under increasing criticism for being a mere "rubber stamp" for the prosecution without adequate procedural safeguards. Critics argue that the grand jury has largely lost its historic role as an independent bulwark protecting citizens from unfounded accusations by the government. The question of fairness in grand jury proceedings has thus become an issue of special interest to the legal profession. Over the years the ABA has developed thirty-one specific principles to restore the grand jury's original "protective" function and to eliminate abuses in the grand jury system. These ABA-supported principles include allowing counsel in the grand jury room, requiring the prosecutor to present exculpatory evidence to the grand jury and granting targets the right to testify. More on ABA Grand Jury Reform Principles

Cato Institute: How the Grand Jury was Captured by Government

The grand jury is perhaps the most mysterious institution in the American criminal justice system. While most people are generally familiar with the function of the police officer, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer, the judge, and the trial jury, few have any idea about what the grand jury is supposed to do and its day-to-day operation. That ignorance largely explains how some over-reaching prosecutors have been able to pervert the grand jury, whose original purpose was to check prosecutorial power, into an inquisitorial bulldozer that enhances the power of government and now runs roughshod over the constitutional rights of citizens. The Cato Institute report, "A Grand Facade: How the Grand Jury was Captured by Government," addresses the history of, problems with, and reforms for the grand jury system. (Read the full report (pdf).)

The Grand Jury of Tomorrow, New Life for An Archaic Institution

(July 2001) Report of the Council for Court Excellence, District of Columbia Grand Jury Study Committee

Executive Summary

Constitutional Rights and the Grand Jury

(7/27/2000) Hearing before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives

Time to Reform the Grand Jury, Champion Magazine, NACDL

(Jan/Feb 1999)