More Guidance and Supervision Needed Over Federal Grand Jury Proceedings

GGD-81-18: Published: Oct 16, 1980. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1980.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Arnold P. Jones
(202) 512-7797
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reviewed the procedural and secrecy rules related to grand jury matters and the supervision of grand jury proceedings to determine how well the criminal justice system was accomplishing the purposes of grand jury secrecy and to identify areas needing improvement. By improving the security of grand jury proceedings, the effectiveness of one of the Government's more important tools to combat organized crime, drug trafficking, and white-collar crime will be improved.

Information about grand jury proceedings has been disclosed with the result that: either witnesses had their identities revealed before any indictments were returned; reputations of persons never indicted were damaged; persons under investigations were identified before indictment; or grand jury investigations were dropped or delayed. These disclosures are often allowable, or even required, under existing laws and procedures. District courts and prosecutors should receive more definitive guidance and direction on what specific information and documents must be kept secret and on procedures for secrecy protection. Transcripts of grand jury proceedings and the deliberations and vote of the grand jury cannot be disclosed. Opinions vary as to whether the following should be kept secret: court proceedings ancillary to grand jury proceedings that deal with ongoing grand jury activities; grand jury subpoenas; evidence developed independently of, but later introduced to, the grand jury; copies of documentary materials presented to the grand jury; internal Government memorandums and other documents that tend to reveal what transpires before the grand jury; and grand juror identities while the grand jury is sitting. The Federal judiciary does not have a consistent program to ensure that Federal prosecutors properly secure grand jury materials and information to: limit access to, store, and dispose of grand jury information; identify grand jurors who have connections with persons under investigation; ensure that grand jury rooms are secure; and audit existing security procedures.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should improve the security practices of U.S. attorneys, organized crime strike forces, U.S. marshals, and court reporter personnel by developing and issuing interim security guidelines until the Federal judiciary establishes official security requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference of the United States should: (1) review Jury System Improvement plans so that the courts and the Department of Justice are in a position to react appropriately whenever situations calling for maintaining the confidentiality of grand juror names arises; (2) establish guidelines setting forth the minimum physical security requirements needed to protect the secrecy of grand jury materials; (3) require each custodian of grand jury materials, including court appointed reporters, to establish procedures consistent with security guidelines and document them in a security plan to be approved by the appropriate district court; (4) provide for periodic audits by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts of all custodians of grand jury materials to determine whether they are complying with approved security plans and whether security procedures need to be improved; and (5) evaluate the physical security around grand jury rooms and develop an appropriate plan to upgrade and modify deficient facilities to ensure that the secrecy of grand jury proceedings will not be compromised.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference of the United States should develop a proposed amendment to rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure which more clearly defines what must be kept secret during the duration of grand jury proceedings, including specific guidance for handling: (1) pre-indictment proceedings; (2) grand jury subpoenas; (3) evidence developed independently of a grand jury, but later introduced to it; (4) duplicates and copies of original documents presented to a grand jury; and (5) internal Government memorandums and other documents that tend to disclose what transpires before a grand jury.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 21, 2016

Aug 3, 2016

Aug 1, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jul 5, 2016

Jun 30, 2016

Jun 28, 2016

Jun 23, 2016

Jun 22, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here