On February 22, the Illinois Supreme Court announced that it has solidified a policy that allows cameras in Illinois courtrooms. This is a great step in making the judicial system more accessible, but currently, circuit courts are allowed to not participate in the program. The courtroom media coverage policy should be made mandatory across the state in order to increase transparency in the court system.
The Illinois Supreme Court launched the pilot project in 2012, allowing news cameras in the circuit courts of Illinois. Over the past four years, more than 450 media requests have been made in 15 different judicial circuits. The Illinois Supreme Court is happy with the success of the pilot program and has adopted a permanent statewide policy for allowing extended media coverage in Illinois Courtrooms.
Under the new policy, each circuit court will be allowed to decide whether or not it wishes to implement the Illinois Supreme Court’s new policy. Video and still cameras are permitted and currently, their use is limited to journalists. Trial judges must approve cameras on a case-by-case basis but some proceedings, such as juvenile, divorce and child custody hearings, are prohibited from allowing cameras by default.
DeKalb county adopted the policy in January of 2013 but there are still nine judicial circuits covering 61 Illinois counties that have yet to adopt extended media coverage and do not allow cameras in the courtroom. Hopefully, these circuits will see the success of the pilot project and will re-evaluate their stance with the policy going permanent. Courtroom transparency is a good thing for the judicial system and for the people of Illinois.