ND Senate Votes To Make Grand Jury Petitions Tougher

Under North Dakota law, a grand jury can be empaneled to investigate criminal charges through the petition process. This was a little-used part of state law until just recently when a group Governor Jack Dalrymple’s political enemies decided to try a petition to investigate allegations of fraud related to legal and disclosed campaign contributions.

Those petitions haven’t been successful – two have been filed in Dunn County and both have been thrown out of court for invalid signatures and for being filed in the wrong venue – but there are currently six other grand jury petitions being circulated in the state.

Fearful that this process is a little too easy, the legislature has been debating raising the requirement. Currently it’s 10% of the votes cast in the county in the last governor’s race. House Bill 1451, as passed by the House, would have raised that requirement to 40% (with a cap at 5,000 signatures), but the Senate today passed an amended version cutting it back down to 25%.

Here’s the floor debate:

I think this is a step in the right direction. While it’s good to have this avenue as an option, what we don’t need is for our elected officials to be constantly operating under a cloud because a few hundreds signatures is enough in some counties to start a grand jury investigation.

That bar is set too low.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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