Federal Grand Jury Reform

Rather than a bulwark against "hasty, malicious and oppressive prosecution," today's federal grand jury is a rubber stamp, leading many to agree that "a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich." 

NACDL calls upon Congress to halt the dangerous erosion and abuse of the federal grand jury and enact the modest proposals outlined in our Federal Grand Jury Reform Report & "Bill of Rights." 

Among the critical, workable reforms detailed in that report are: (1) the right to counsel for grand jury witnesses who are not receiving immunity; (2) an obligation to present evidence which may exonerate the target or subject of the offense; and (3) the right for targets or subjects to testify. 


Grand Jury Report CoverNACDL issued a groundbreaking new report on restoring and reforming the grand jury system-- Evaluating Grand Jury Reform in Two States: The Case for Reform. This research reflects an in-depth study of grand jury reform in two states – New York and Colorado. In conducting this study, researchers Erin Crites, Jon Gould and Colleen Shepard of the Center for Justice, Law & Society at George Mason University studied the experiences of prosecutors, defense lawyers and retired judges. Four key reform recommendations emerge from the research: (i) defense representation in the grand jury room, (ii) production of witness transcripts for the defense, (iii) advance notice for witnesses to appear, and (iv) the presentation of exculpatory evidence to the grand jury.

Read the report 

Reform Proposals 

Articles, Editorials & News


Grand Jury Reform Legislation in the 105th Congress (1998)

Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-AR) introduced the Grand Jury Due Process Act (S. 2030) in May 1998. This legislation would have provided a right to assistance of counsel in the grand jury room. In July 1998, Bumpers introduced a more comprehensive reform bill called the Grand Jury Reform Act (S. 2289). In addition to providing a right to counsel's presence, this legislation would have required that grand jurors receive basic legal instructions, that prosecutors present any substantial evidence of innocence, and that defendants receive transcripts of certain grand jury testimony against them. Both bills were referred to the Judiciary Committee. In July 1998, Bumpers offered his right to counsel proposal as an amendment to the CJS appropriations bill (S. Amdt. 3243 to S. 2260), but it was defeated 59-41.

Materials Relating to Sen. Bumpers' Grand Jury Bills, Including Floor Statements, Bill Text, and Roll Call Vote: Click Here 

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