Illinois to Allow Cameras in Courtrooms

Empty court room

Up until very recently, Illinois was 1 of 14 states refusing to allow the use of cameras in courtroom for the purpose of recording court proceedings. But its hold out status changed last week after an announcement from the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Court explained that it would test the waters and permit the use of cameras in select courtrooms via a special pilot program. As part of the test project, use of cameras in courtrooms would be limited to courts in the 14th Judicial District, which is located in Western Illinois near the Iowa border and includes Rock Island, Henry, Mercer and Whiteside counties.

The decision to permit cameras in court was met with mixed reviews, as explained in this Chicago Tribune article:

Evans (chief judge of the Cook County Circuit Court) praised the court’s decision last week, saying that allowing the public to see what happens inside a courtroom would allow them better understand the justice system in an era where most people can watch hours of courtroom drama daily on shows like “Law & Order.”

“The way democracy works best is when the public is informed,” he said. “This will show the public that the courts are not like they see on those programs.”

Some of Evans’ peers were concerned that cameras might make local courtrooms more like the TV versions, with witnesses, attorneys and even judges more likely to act out to draw attention to themselves.

Of course, this debate is not a new one. Every time any state proposes allowing camera in courtrooms, similar arguments are made and there are some who vehemently oppose to the concept. Even so, the majority of states allow cameras in U.S. courtrooms and for good reason: transparency is an important part of the judicial process. Permitting the use of cameras in courtrooms and thus allowing the recording of Illinois lawsuits makes the court process more transparent and more easily accessible to the general public.

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