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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: March 9, 2018 12:28 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Grand Jury Reforms
The constitutional rights of potential criminal defendants and witnesses are highly scrutinized in the criminal justice process. In recent years, we have learned that these constitutional rights are being set aside or protected with great variability in the grand jury process. News reports have highlighted leaks of secret grand jury materials. The criminal defense bar laments that grand jury judges frequently seem unaware of controlling case law with regard to the right to counsel, the right against self-incrimination, and the right under the Pennsylvania Constitution to protect one’s reputation.

I will soon introduce legislation to amend the grand jury process to prevent future violations of constitutionally protected rights. The bill will clarify what documents and materials are subject to grand jury secrecy and require notice to all appropriate parties before such materials are disclosed to the public. It will clarify when a grand jury witness may publicly disclose his or her own testimony. In order to protect a witness’s right under the Fifth Amendment, the bill will provide an immediate right of appeal in the event that the grand jury judge holds the witness in contempt for refusing to answer in order to avoid self-incrimination.

Notably, many grand jury reports in recent years have offered criticism and opinions about public officials, including judges and members of the General Assembly, and how they perform their duties when the public officials have nothing to do with the criminal conduct being investigated. This has never been the purpose of an investigating grand jury, which must decide only whether criminal charges are appropriate with regard to the target of the investigation. Allowing reports to criticize or make recommendations about legislation and court rules distracts from the conduct of the targeted individual and threatens the constitutionally protected right to reputation of individuals named in the report without any notice or opportunity to present evidence. My bill will curtail the ability of grand juries to opine on matters unrelated to the criminal investigation.

Our grand jury process needs to be tightened up to protect the rights of all involved. Please join me in sponsoring this important legislation to uphold basic constitutional rights.

Introduced as SB1133