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updated: 10/28/2013 2:09 PM

New Illinois Supreme Court chief justice sworn in

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  • Justice Rita Garman

    Justice Rita Garman
    Associated Press

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- A new chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court who was sworn in Monday in a courthouse where she began her judicial career 40 years ago says making the criminal justice system more efficient and transparent would be among her top priorities.

Rita Garman was sworn in by the chief justice she's replacing, Thomas Kilbride, whose highest profile policy was implementing a pilot program permitting cameras in select state courtrooms -- with the aim of possibility one day ending in-court camera bans for good.

In brief remarks after her swearing in at Vermilion County Courthouse in Danville in eastern Illinois, Garman didn't mention the camera program by name. But she did say she supports "the increased use of technology" to make "courts more efficient and to ensure transparency."

Kilbride, who now resumes his associate justice post, launched the camera-in-court program nearly two years ago. Dozens of counties have opened trials to news photographers and electronic news media. The state's largest county, Cook, isn't fully participating yet.

In her prepared remarks and speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Garman also said more must be done to guarantee cases don't become clogged up in the system, delaying justice.

"There is a need to keep all the cases moving," she told reporters. "There are (real) people behind the cases."

She added that technology should be employed in courts so lawyers and others could "seamlessly track filings."

Garman becomes the 119th chief justice on the court and the second woman to hold the post. She's one of three women currently on the seven-member panel.

"This is probably one of the most gratifying and uplifting moments of my life," she said at the installation ceremony, where jurists, well-wishers and her relatives crowded spectator benches.

Just before the swearing in, Justice Mary Jane Theis alluded to Garman being the second-longest member of the judiciary out of more than 950 judges in Illinois.

"No one is more prepared in our state to be chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court than Rita Garman," Theis said.

Illinois's highest court is based in Springfield, though the justices have been hearing arguments in Chicago while their courthouse in the capital undergoes renovations.

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