Cook County to apply for new cameras in the courtroom experimental program
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
by DAVE MCKINNEY AND LISA DONOVAN
SPRINGFIELD — Now that the Illinois
Supreme Court has announced it will allow cameras in trial courts on an
experimental basis, Cook County’s chief judge says he wants in.
Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge
Tim Evans says he’d like the local courts to participate in the program.
“I will apply to the Illinois Supreme
Court’s pilot project to allow extended media coverage in Circuit Court of Cook
County courtrooms,” Evans said in statement.
“If approved for participation in the
pilot program, the Circuit Court of Cook County will enthusiastically adhere to
the guidelines established by the Illinois Supreme Court.”
Evans saids he’ll appoint an advisory
committee to make recommendations on best practices for implementing the
“Allowing media to have cameras and
recording devices in the courtroom will give the public a better idea of what
goes on in their courtrooms, and they will understand that what they see on
television court shows is not a true picture of how judges do justice,” he
The Illinois Supreme Court detailed
its historic announcement Tuesday, handing news broadcasters a major victory in
a 29-year battle to bring high-profile trials to the masses.
“This is another step to bring more
transparency and more accountability to the Illinois court system,” said Chief
“The provisions of this new policy
keep discretion in the chief circuit judge and the trial judge to assure that a
fair and impartial trial is not compromised yet affords a closer look at the
workings of our court system to the public through the eyes of the electronic
news media and news photographers,” he said.
The matter has been a high priority
for Chief Kilbride, who has pushed the issue during his stint heading the
Until now, Illinois has been among 14
states that did not allow for routine use of cameras in the courtroom by the
The court’s edict would set up a
process by which the state’s 23 circuits could petition the Supreme Court to
allow cameras to record proceedings. Once a circuit is approved, individual
trial judges would leave the final call with a trial judge.
Filming would be disallowed during
the testimony of sex abuse victims and other “forcible” felony cases, including
when police informants, undercover agents and relocated witnesses are involved.
Cameras also will be barred during
juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody, evidence suppression and trade
secret cases under the court’s policy.
Arguments before the state’s
appellate courts and the Supreme Court have been allowed since 1983, but
television and radio broadcasters have been stymied at the trial court level
One top journalism expert
characterized the move by the Illinois high court as a victory for the public,
whose only real glimpse into what transpires in courtrooms is through popular
“Putting cameras in the courtroom and
allowing the public to know firsthand what’s going on allows them to see how
the court system works and to understand in real life what the judicial system
does, rather than depending on ‘Law and Order,’ ‘Perry Mason,’ or ‘L.A. Law,’ ”
said Al Tompkins, a senior faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit
The news media currently is not
allowed to use cameras and tape recorders in federal courts, which meant that
Illinoisans could not see or hear the historic proceedings that resulted in federal
felony convictions against former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
In December, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) joined Sen.
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in introducing legislation to require televising U.S.
Supreme Court proceedings.