Editorial: Expand cameras to suburban Cook, McHenry courts

  • The Illinois Supreme Court made cameras in the courtroom permanent this year after a four-year trial period.

    The Illinois Supreme Court made cameras in the courtroom permanent this year after a four-year trial period. Associated Press

 
Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted3/29/2016 1:00 AM

Maybe you're old enough to remember Super 8 home movies and 12-exposure rolls of film. Getting photographed or filmed was relatively expensive, somewhat rare and generally an occasion. You took notice.

Not so now, when your image is recorded every day, possibly without you knowing and probably without affecting your daily activities at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In those "old" days, media cameras in courtrooms would have seemed startlingly intrusive.

These days, it's the courtrooms without cameras that seem odd, almost as if they're historical tableaus from The Time Before O.J.

Indeed, the Illinois Supreme Court recently decided one of the potential objections to cameras in courtrooms -- that their mere presence would change the proceedings -- hadn't materialized.

The state's top court made cameras in the courtroom permanent this year after a four-year trial period. "Those fears that we've had in the past just don't seem to be playing out," Illinois Supreme Court Justice Mary Jane Theis told NBC5.

But even with that imprimatur, you won't find cameras in a lot of Illinois courthouses.

McHenry County's 22nd judicial circuit does not allow media cameras, nor do eight others among the 24 judicial circuits in Illinois. In Cook County, only the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago allows cameras, though Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans says he has every intention of expanding to other courthouses, including those in Skokie and Rolling Meadows. DuPage County had cameras in the courtrooms for numerous cases beginning in 2012, but new Chief Judge Kathryn E. Creswell dislikes the cameras and has denied requests.

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Judicial circuits don't have to allow cameras, and individual judges can veto them. The Supreme Court isn't forcing any one to change.

But we hope the judges opposed to cameras do change. One argument for it is the public's heightened awareness of the need for transparency in law enforcement and the criminal justice system in general. Should the judiciary be the only branch of government that keeps its business out of the broader public eye?

Apart from lawyers, reporters and the occasional civics class, few people ever go to a courtroom, and even fewer want to.

Cameras, used discreetly, can teach people about what goes on there, that it's really not all like the O.J. Simpson trial. Doesn't that serve the cause of justice?

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