The Illinois Supreme Court [official website] on Tuesday authorized [order, PDF] the use of television cameras and other recording devices in state courts [press release, PDF]. The order permits "extended media coverage" in courtrooms, which entails broadcasting of proceedings by the use of television, radio, photographic or recording equipment for the purpose of gathering and disseminating news to the public. While Illinois has permitted the use of news cameras in its Supreme Court and appellate courts since 1983, it has not allowed news cameras in trial courts until this decision. Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride championed the new policy:
This is another step to bring more transparency and more accountability to the Illinois court system. The provisions of this new policy keep discretion in the chief circuit judge and the trial judge to assure that a fair and impartial trial is not compromised, yet affords a closer look at the workings of our court system to the public through the eyes of the electronic news media and news photographers.Prior to the order, Illinois was one of 14 states that either banned or severely restricted camera use in trial courtrooms.
The presence of cameras and other recording devices in courtrooms has generated substantial controversy both in the US and abroad. In December, the US Senate Judiciary Committee returned to the longstanding debate [JURIST report] over whether to televise the proceedings of the US Supreme Court [official website], including whether Congress, as an equal branch of government, has the authority to require the court to admit cameras. In November, C-SPAN [official website] asked [letter text, PDF] the US Supreme Court to drop its ban on cameras in the courtroom when it hears arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [JURIST news archive]. In September, the UK Justice Secretary announced [JURIST report] that cameras would be allowed in UK and Wales courts in an effort to increase judicial transparency. In October 2010, a coalition of 37 public interest groups urged the US Senate to permit television coverage of Supreme Court proceedings [JURIST report]. In September 2010, US Federal judges reached an agreement [JURIST report] on a pilot project to allow certain civil trials to be televised.