Three Republican candidates for a DuPage County judicial post expressed concern about allowing cameras into courtrooms but said they ultimately support the idea.
The candidates -- Circuit Judge Bob Gibson, Associate Judge Brian McKillip and county board member Patrick O'Shea -- each said they worry cameras could compromise the integrity of proceedings unless handled delicately.
"If it's handled properly, it can be a very positive step in making courts more accessible, more understandable and more realistic, so people realize it isn't television and it also is not necessarily 'Judge Judy,'" said McKillip, who added he would support a local pilot program exploring the issue. "We can't just pretend that it's 1975."
The 18th Judicial Circuit in DuPage launched a committee to investigate after the Illinois Supreme Court announced a state pilot program in January. The program allows trial courts to petition the higher court to introduce the use of cameras on an experimental basis. The 14th Judicial Circuit in Northwestern Illinois and the district covering Kankakee and Iroquois counties already have signed on.
O'Shea said he supports the idea of media covering high-profile cases, as long as it doesn't create a "circuslike atmosphere." He and Gibson both cited the O.J. Simpson murder trial as an example of how cameras might result in more audience-oriented proceedings.
"If it can be done, it will educate people. It will allow a glimpse into the court system and will allow them to see things that for so long have been closed off," said O'Shea, who says individual trial judges should make the call on a case-by-case basis. "I believe cameras can be allowed in courtrooms in certain instances. I wouldn't want to see an O.J. Simpson-type setting on TV every night."
Gibson said any program must take into account the "potentially competing" interests of defendants' rights to a fair trial the freedom of speech and the press.
"It's likely the two can be accommodated, but I think, like anything, you've got to be cautious," he said. "Essentially, pilot-type programs should determine: Is it good for only certain cases? Is it good for every case? Are there certain limitations? My own opinion is, it's going to happen, and I think it can be done at least in the majority of cases without infringing a right to a fair trial."
Whoever wins the Republican primary Tuesday will go on in November to face Bolingbrook attorney Alice Wilson, who is the lone Democrat on the ticket.
Wilson, responding to a Daily Herald questionnaire, took no official position on courtroom cameras.
"All I have to say is observing actual cases in courtrooms in Illinois is a great training tool for lawyers, young and old and also children who have prospects of becoming lawyers and judges," she wrote.