A committee has moved one step closer to bringing cameras into Kane County courtrooms.
The committee studying the issue for the 16th Judicial Circuit, which includes Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties, met late Wednesday afternoon and put the finishing touches on rules and procedures that Chief Judge Robert Spence will review and forward to the Illinois Supreme Court for approval.
Contact information ( * required )
"We had the option of saying, 'Let's just not deal with this,' " said Kendall County Judge Timothy McCann, who is the committee chairman. "We've tried to do our best to move this forward. I think we're going to end up with a good product."
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court gave the thumbs-up for cameras to be used in courtrooms on a trial basis. Some circuits already have been using cameras.
Officials are hopeful the Supreme Court would give approval to the 16th Circuit's plan before the end of the year. In the meantime, McCann said his office is working to finalize the rules and have committee members review them before sending the plan to Spence early next week.
"We are in the very final stage," McCann said. "We expect to have a document very shortly."
In the rules, a media representative must file a request with the circuit clerk 14 days in advance of a court proceeding for cameras. The clerk will then send a notice to the judges and attorneys on both sides of a case. The attorneys will inform witnesses in a case, who may object to cameras. If an objection is made, a judge will schedule a hearing to decide.
The committee did not prescribe how cameras should be set up in each courtroom because the courthouses in the three counties are different. The state Supreme Court limits cameras to two per room and says they must be silent and unobtrusive to the court proceeding.
McCann said the 14-day notice means cameras will not be allowed in a suspect's bond call. He said defendants usually don't have an attorney for bond call and the state often is still investigating a case, so cameras at that point could be unfair to either side.
The Supreme Court has noted exemptions to cameras in courtrooms, such as sexual assault cases and child custody disputes.
As for objections, a witness may argue, for example that his or her testimony could put them in future danger. McCann said officials have not determined which side bears the burden of proof in an objection hearing. "Those things have not been identified by rule yet. We're going to have to work our way through those questions," he said.
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon, who also served on the committee, said members finalized rules and procedures on Wednesday during a meeting that lasted about 70 minutes.
McMahon said he was confident cameras could be introduced into courtrooms while respecting and preserving the integrity of the judicial process.
"I'm very pleased with the rules and notices we put together. There was a lot of thought that went into this by the committee," McMahon said.
Spence has said he hopes to forward the recommendation to the state Supreme Court before his appointment to the 2nd District Appellate Court takes effect Nov. 5.