A new era could be coming for Kane County after a committee Thursday recommended the 16th Judicial Circuit apply to participate in a trial program to allow cameras in courtrooms.
"Our next big step is how do we make this thing work so it's fair and proper," said Kendall County Judge Timothy McCann, the committee chair. "I do think there's a fair amount of belief that this program is going to be good for the state of Illinois, good for the 16th Circuit, and good for the people."
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The state's Supreme Court earlier this year authorized cameras and other electronic recording devices for courtrooms on an experimental, circuit-by-circuit basis.
Robert Spence, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, which includes Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties, appointed a committee of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and other lawyers to study the issue. The committee announced that its recommendation was to move forward to apply for cameras in the courtroom.
In a prepared statement, Spence said the committee would continue to work on a detailed set of rules to be sent to the Supreme Court for approval.
No timetable is available as to when cameras could first be used in 16th Circuit courtrooms.
"We will need some rather detailed rules concerning the plan's logistics. We want to be thoughtful about it and try to anticipate issues that might arise. The application will be submitted after the local rules are written," Spence said.
"We want to have as detailed a plan as possible, and we have many things to consider, so I anticipate that it will be several months before we are ready to submit this plan to the Supreme Court," he added. "In the end, however, we certainly expect that the news media will have greater access to our courtrooms."
The committee met Wednesday after getting opinions and input from residents and media representatives.
McCann said the committee had consensus to move forward and he personally favored the idea because he believes it eventually will move from being experimental to permanent in Illinois.
The committee will next meet May 29 in Yorkville and McCann hopes to break into smaller groups to tackle specific rules, such as if cameras are going to be mounted or movable. McCann doesn't know how long it will take to draw up rules that will be sent to the Supreme Court for approval but hopes it can be done by the end of the year, if not earlier.
The state's Supreme Court has spelled out numerous guidelines, allowing a maximum of two cameras in a courtroom and forbidding the recording of juries, court recesses and certain types of cases, such as child custody battles and sexual assault.
Joseph Tybor, spokesman for the Illinois Supreme Court, said four circuits are using television cameras: the 14th Circuit near the Quad Cities, the 21st Circuit in Kankakee County, the 15th Circuit in northwest Illinois, and the 3rd Circuit in Madison County.
Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride this week issued an order allowing cameras in the 17th Judicial Circuit, which is comprised of Boone and Winnebago counties in northern Illinois.
Tybor said each of these five circuits submitted applications that did not have local rules drawn up, and they were approved within two to four weeks.