Obtaining grand jury transcripts
Q: I am interested in obtaining the grand jury transcripts for proceedings for a particular defendant. Can you please tell me how to get them, or can you tell me what site I might find them on or if in fact they are available to the public. Could you email them to me? Must I pay for them and if so, how much?
A: Under California Penal Code section 938.1(b), transcripts of grand jury proceedings are available to the public, IF the grand jury votes to indict, 10 days after a copy of the transcript is given to the defendant or her attorney. Consequently, if the grand jury voted to indict the defendant, the transcripts of the grand jury proceeding in their case should now be available to the public. If the grand jury did not vote to indict, then the transcript is not available.
If the defendant was indicted, the best way to obtain access is to call the clerk’s office of the Superior Court and ask where they keep copies of the grand jury transcripts, or whether they are available on a web site maintained by the superior court. If not, you’ll probably have to go to the location where the county keeps the transcripts, tell them the case number and they should be able to provide you a copy. The clerk’s office can charge a fee, but only the amount necessary to cover its direct cost of copying the transcript for you.
There is one other thing you should be aware of. Occasionally, a court will order a grand jury transcript sealed until the end of trial in order to prevent publicity about the transcript from creating a significant risk that the defendant cannot receive a fair trial. There is a very stringent test that the court is supposed to apply before sealing the transcript, but sometimes they seal it upon a request for the defendant without applying that test. If the superior court clerk’s office tells you the transcript is sealed, you should be entitled to see a copy of the court order sealing it. If there is no such court order, and the defendant was indicted, the clerk’s office should not have the right to refuse to provide you a copy.