By Russell D. Longcore
Just this week, writer Marilyn M. Barnewall introduced me to the Constitutional concept of the Common Law Grand Jury. I was aware that the Fifth Amendment provided for a grand jury, but until now I was not aware of either its history, its power nor its availability to The People. I’m a pretty wide reader of things political. And I do not remember seeing anything anywhere about the Common Law Grand Jury.
We are all taught in school…that is, if we get any information about the Constitution at all…that the Constitution established three branches of government, Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Curiously missing from our education is the separate fourth “branch” of government, the Common Law Grand Jury. It operates entirely independently from the Federal government, and its power has not changed since 1789 when the Constitution was ratified. Actually, the Grand Jury finds its roots in the Magna Carta (originally issued in 1215), and was always meant to be a way for The People to control the government.
Here is why this is such an important concept to groups such as the Texas Nationalist Movement, the Hawaiian Independence Movement and the Second Vermont Republic…organized groups of people dedicated to bringing about secession and the status of sovereign nation for their respective states. As we have seen in the Texas Legislature this session, not one elected official had the courage to even introduce a bill to have Texans vote on whether they even wanted the State of Texas to secede from the Union. No politician can be seen as a friend of secession and independence. So with legislative defeats freshly handed to the TNM, where can it go for a redress of grievances? What can the TNM…or any other secessionist movement…do to make an end run around their state houses and push forward toward secession?
They can use the power of the Common Law Grand Jury.
Perhaps you are well aware of the Common Law Grand Jury. For those to whom this is a new concept, I invite you to read on, and then click on the link below to read a paper written by Roger Roots and published in the Creighton State University School of Law Review.
Exerpted from the preface: “The loss of the grand jury in its traditional, authentic, or runaway form, leaves the modern federal government with few natural enemies capable of delivering any sort of damaging blows against it. The importance of this loss of a once powerful check on the “runaway” federal government is a focus that has remained largely untouched in the legal literature.
This article examines the historic decrease in the powers of the American grand jury during the twentieth century. It introduces the subject of the grand jury in the context of the constitutional language which invoked it, and then compares the modern application of the institution at the federal level with its common law model. Tracing the historic evolution of the grand jury as an anti-government institution in the English common law until its “capture” by the government in the mid-twentieth century, this article will demonstrate how the role of the grand jury has changed considerably over time. Finally, this article will argue that the modern loss of “runaway” or independent grand juries is unconstitutional and recommend a restoration of the grand jury’s historic powers.”
To read all about the Common Law Grand Jury, go to: The Common Law Grand Jury
DumpDC. Six Letters That Can Change History.
© Copyright 2011, Russell D. Longcore. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.