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Illinois Supreme Court marks 1 year of cameras in the courts - approves 2 more Chicago-area circuits

One year ago today, Chief Justice Thomas L. Kilbride announced that the Illinois Supreme Court approved a pilot project that would allow news cameras and electronic news recordings in Illinois trial courtrooms for the first time ever.

During that time, 25 counties in nine judicial circuits across Illinois have participated in the pilot program, opening the trial courtrooms to news photographers and electronic news media to cover cases.

"At this time last year, my colleagues and I announced a pilot project in order to promote greater openness and accountability in Illinois courts by allowing cameras and microphones in the trial courtrooms," Chief Justice Kilbride said. "By giving the public a closer look at the workings of our court system, I remain confident that citizens will learn more about how their courts work and the critical roles that judges and the courts have in our society.

"I am thankful for all of the efforts of the chief judges, the judges and their staffs, attorneys and all those involved in implementing the pilot project. I look forward to more expansion of the project in the coming months."

Today, Chief Justice Kilbride and the Supreme Court also announced that Lake County in the 19th Circuit and DeKalb and Kendall counties in the 23rd Circuit have been approved for the pilot project. The Order is effective immediately.

Chief Judge Fred Foreman of the 19th Circuit said he and the judges in the circuit are committed to the program and would afford an additional opportunity to assess the pilot project from another perspective. "Our 15 circuit judges have expressed unanimous support for this pilot project," Chief Judge Foreman said.

"Our court staff has developed a positive working relationship with various news representatives, and we welcome the collaboration of the news media to develop local protocols and implement a successful program."

Chief Judge Timothy J. McCann of the 23rd Circuit already brings experience to the project. He chaired the Courtroom Media Committee of the 16th Circuit (Kane County), which was composed of state's attorneys and public defenders from DeKalb and Kendall counties.

"Before the split of the 16th Judicial Circuit which created the 23rd Circuit, we held meetings with many stakeholders of the courts," Chief Judge McCann said. "I chaired the committee and assisted the committee in developing suggested rules and procedures for the implementation of the program in our counties.

"We also received input from the public at hearings. I believe that committee experience will enable the 23rd Circuit to implement the pilot program efficiently and quickly."

The Supreme Court Order approving the 19th and 23rd circuits requires that a judge presiding over a proceeding in which cameras or audio are allowed must file a report with the chief judge of the circuit, the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court Justice in the district the Circuit is located.

In January 2012, the 14th Judicial Circuit in northwestern Illinois was the first to be approved for cameras in the courtroom under Chief Judge Jeffrey W. O’Connor.

The Supreme Court has allowed cameras to broadcast its own oral arguments, and those of the Illinois Appellate Court, since 1983. At that time, however, the court specifically rejected allowing news cameras during trial proceedings, and the issue made little headway until Chief Justice Kilbride and his fellow justices took another look.

For the first time ever, the Supreme Court allowed live coverage of an oral argument in its courtroom on Wednesday. The coverage of People ex rel. The City of Chicago v. Le Mirage Inc. was broadcast by WGN over its internet site and live on CLTV in Chicago.

The Supreme Court also on Thursday amended its camera policy to include language that would explain the policy to jurors. These instructions to the jurors shall be given by the judge at the beginning of the trial and before the jury begins deliberations. The amended policy can be found on the Supreme Court's website at and click on the "Extended Media Coverage Order" link under "Quick Links".

Lake County in the 19th Circuit along with DeKalb and Kendall counties in the 23rd Circuit joins Knox County in the 9th Judicial Circuit; McLean County in the 11th Judicial Circuit; DuPage County in the 18th Judicial Circuit; Alexander, Jackson, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski, Saline, Union and William-son counties in the First Judicial Circuit; Boone and Winnebago counties in the 17th Judicial Circuit; Carroll, Jo Daviess, Lee, Ogle and Stephenson counties in the 15th Judicial Circuit; Madison County in the Third Judicial Circuit; Kankakee County in the 21st Judicial Circuit; and Henry, Mercer, Rock Island and Whiteside counties in the 14th Judicial Circuit where extended media coverage was approved earlier by the Supreme Court.

Posted on January 24, 2013 by Chris Bonjean
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