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Ill. high court OKs cameras in courts

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Old 01.25.12, 01:35 AM
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Ill. high court OKs cameras in courts

01.24.12 01:31 PM

CHICAGO, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The Illinois Supreme Court Tuesday approved use of cameras in Circuit Court proceeding on an experimental basis.

The state's highest court announced in a news release the policy takes effect immediately and allows any Circuit Court in the state to apply to the Supreme Court to participate.

"This is another step to bring more transparency and more accountability to the Illinois court system," Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride said in the release.

It will be up to chief circuit judges to ensure a "fair and impartial trial is not compromised" while providing "a closer look at the workings of our court system to the public through the eyes of the electronic news media and news photographer."

Kilbride noted many other states allow cameras in courtrooms and said he's hopeful it will become "standard practice in Illinois" as well.

Illinois has allowed cameras in the Supreme Court and Illinois appellate courts since 1983.

The state had been one of just 14 in which cameras were banned or restricted so much they're hardly used.

The policy, which also applies to news media audio recordings, stipulates media must request electronic coverage 14 days before a proceeding though judges can expand or reduce the window.

No more than two video cameras and two still photographers will be allowed in a courtroom.

Al Tompkins, senior faculty for broadcast and online media at the Poynter Institute, a journalism training center for professionals in St. Petersburg, Fla., told the Chicago Tribune allowing media to record and broadcast trials would help the public better understand how the court system works.

"It is a big deal, and it's not just a big deal for the media," Tompkins said. "My excitement isn't just for the newsrooms that might benefit from this, but it's for the citizens who now will have free access to something that they were just hallway observers for."

Skeptics, however, say allowing cameras in courtrooms could prove a distraction and lead to attorneys and judges playing to a television audience.

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