The California assembly on Tuesday approved a bill that would give the Los Angeles City Attorney's office the ability to impanel its own grand jury to investigate larger misdemeanors such as environmental crimes, consumer fraud, labor violations and wage violations, officials in the office told LA Weekly.

The bill would still need to be approved by the state senate and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in order for the City Attorney's office to convene its first grand jury, which could happen as soon as January if the legislative green lights continue.

Sources in the City Attorney's office explained that it is the third largest state or municipal law office in California next to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office and the state Attorney General's office, but it runs without the power to impanel a grand jury and without the kind of subpoena power that comes with such a body.

What's more, because the District Attorney's office sees so much action — mostly serious felony crimes — the City Attorney's office gets a lot of serious misdemeanor cases that would be handled as felonies by D.A.s in smaller cities. Those D.A.s have the power to impanel grand juries, but the City Attorney does not.

Having access to a grand jury would allow the City Attorney to tackle complex paper trails that shroud mortgage fraud, product safety and other white collar crimes.

LA Weekly