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Cameras could soon be broadcasting from DuPage courtrooms

Updated: October 27, 2012 6:13AM

Residents who can’t get to the courthouse in Wheaton could soon be able to see and hear what’s happening inside DuPage County courtrooms.

The Illinois Supreme Court announced this week that the DuPage County Judicial Circuit has been accepted into a pilot program that would allow video and audio recordings of court proceedings, under certain conditions.

DuPage Chief Judge John Elsner said Tuesday cameras could be allowed as soon as October. The courtroom camera committee submitted a draft of local rules with their application so they should be finalized quickly. Elsner said the local legal community has accepted the changes.

“The Founding Fathers wanted the courts open to the public — at least that’s the argument I’m making,” Elsner said.

The 16th Judicial Circuit — which includes Kane, Kendall and DeKalb counties — is still working on local rules and logistics for allowing cameras into the courtroom. Kendall County Judge Tim McCann said the cameras committee is meeting again at 4 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Kendall County courthouse. At that time, he expects to have the local rules finalized. Once they are complete, they will be sent to 16th Circuit Chief Judge Bob Spence, who can apply to the State Supreme Court program.

Currently, criminal and civil county courtrooms are open to the public, including reporters, but no recording devices are allowed. (Juvenile court is not open to the public, but reporters are allowed in.) Since 1983, both video and still cameras have been allowed during arguments before the state’s appellate courts and the Illinois Supreme Court.

Under the new rules, any objections to filming during the testimony of sex abuse victims, police informants, undercover agents and relocated witnesses will be granted. Cameras will be barred during juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody, evidence suppression and trade secret cases.

Witnesses in other cases can request not to be photographed, but the request will not automatically have to be granted. Coverage of jury selection is not allowed.

In May, the first Illinois court trial was broadcast on InSession, which was formerly known as CourtTV. In the case, a Henry County woman was accused of collecting more than $10,000 from community members who thought she had cancer.

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