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Cameras-in-courtrooms program expected to debut in Cook County by year’s end

Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times
by KARA SPAK

Television cameras should be allowed in at least one Cook County courtroom by year’s end, the county’s top judge said Wednesday.


Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans and Joseph Tybor, director of communications for the Illinois Supreme Court, discussed the mechanics behind the slow roll out of video and still photography in Cook County’s courtrooms during a meeting with local reporters and editors.

In January, the Illinois Supreme Court voted to allow cameras in the state’s courtrooms. Since then, 13 counties have instituted some type of cameras-in-the-courtroom program. Cook County is working on tailoring the logistics of the new policy to one of the country’s largest legal systems.

Evans, an enthusiastic supporter of the initiative, said he expects to have at least one courtroom equipped with sound and video equipment by the end of the year. And he hopes eventually to open the county’s entire court system to the potential for camera coverage.

Not all cases will be eligible, and individual judges will be given latitude over what to allow in cases before them. But Evans suggested that Cook County judges who resist the change may see their spicier cases moved to another judge.

“I wouldn’t want to prevent the public from knowing what happens in court because of the recalcitrance of a judge,” Evans said. “They need to know what goes on here.”

No more than two cameras will be allowed in a courtroom, though more likely one camera will record video or shoot still pictures for all media outlets’ use.

“The Supreme Court does consider this a solemn proceeding,” Tybor said of court hearings. “This is not entertainment.”




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