Bethany Krajelis Sep. 13, 2013, 3:50pm

News cameras will soon be allowed in the courtrooms of six more Illinois counties, Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride and Chief Judge Dan Flannell of the Sixth Judicial Circuit announced today.

The approval of the Sixth Judicial Circuit’s application brings the total number of participants in the high court’s cameras in the courtroom pilot project to 35 counties in 13 judicial circuits.

The Sixth Judicial Circuit includes Champaign, DeWitt, Douglas, Macon, Moultrie and Piatt counties.

“Cameras and microphones in the courtroom now reach citizens in more than one half of the judicial circuits and one third of the counties in Illinois,” Kilbride said in the court’s news release.

Kilbride said the addition of the Sixth Judicial Circuit will bring more geographical diversity to the court’s pilot project, which began in 2012 and served as one of his top initiatives during his soon-to-be ending term as chief justice.

“The Sixth Circuit provides a host of smaller newspaper and radio stations with the opportunity to provide their readers and listeners with picture and audio coverage as well as the local network affiliates and public radio stations that also cover our state's capitol,” he said.

As the chief judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, Flannell said in the court’s release that “We look forward to joining other Circuits around the state in expanding the public's opportunity to more easily access and understand the operations of the judicial branch of our state's government.”

Flannell said members of the Extended Media Committee, which was chaired by Champaign County Presiding Judge Thomas Difanis, “did an admirable job in compiling information from other jurisdictions already in the pilot program, which in turn allowed the Circuit judges to make a prompt and informed decision to seek approval from the Supreme Court.”

Difanis said in the court’s release that the circuit’s judges were given the chance to express their opinions on joining the pilot project, as well as how it may affect the six-county circuit, before it filed its application with the Supreme Court.

"The vote was quite overwhelming to approve application for the extended media coverage which says a lot for the judges in this Circuit," Difanis said. "There has been very little concern about implementation and we are looking forward to see how this works out."

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