Karen Kidd Mar. 2, 2016, 10:01am


Cameras may soon be installed in more circuit courts across Illinois, after the state Supreme Court's decision to make a pilot policy permanent.

For almost a year now, the state Supreme Court has required participating circuit courts to submit quarterly reports on extended media coverage (EMC) activity, however, quarterly EMC reports from those courts - which includes Madison County - are confidential, a high court spokesperson said.

Details about submitting quarterly reports were described in a press release issued by the high court last week, in which a new form for submitting quarterly EMC activity reports was announced. The new EMC quarterly activity reports are required "so that the Court can monitor the success of the program and address any problems or concerns that may arise," the press release said.

The Supreme Court has, since March 13, 2015, required participating circuits submit quarterly reports on EMC activity. However, the format for submitting those reports was not specified until recently.

"To ensure richer and more consistent reporting, the Court has created a three-part form to be used for the confidential quarterly reports," the press release said.

The new format provides for reporting the number of EMC requests received, types of coverage requested, nature of the proceedings for which EMC coverage was sought, and how many requests were approved or denied. The new format also allows each circuit court to log EMC requests to include case name, proceeding and the presiding judge.

One portion of the new format provides space for chief judges "to share any observations, issues, or concerns that arose during that reporting quarter, as well as any suggestions that could help the Court improve the process," the press release said.

"The new application and reporting forms were designed to provide a more efficient and uniform process in which chief judges can submit and the Court can review information related to extended media coverage," Michael J. Tardy, director of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, was quoted in the press release. "Being able to thoroughly and timely review applications and reports aids the Court's tracking of the Policy, and determines whether any changes are needed to ensure the practice is working for courts and media alike."

The same press release also announced the Illinois Supreme Court's extended media coverage pilot policy is now permanent. Since January 2012, trial courtrooms across the state have been allowed on a pilot basis, a program in which 41 counties and 15 circuits have participated. Circuit courts in Cook County began participating Dec. 16, 2014, while circuit courts in Madison County began participating March 15, 2014. A list of participating circuits and counties is maintained online here.

Nothing actually changes with Chief Justice Rita B. Garman's announcement in the press release concerning news camera policy in Illinois courtrooms. Garman only announced the high court's decision to adopt, as a permanent policy, a pilot project launched January 24, 2012. That pilot project allowed the use of media cameras in certain courtrooms on an experimental basis. Since the pilot program began, 15 judicial circuits have been approved to implement EMC, and more than 450 media requests have been received, the press release said.

"Based on the success of the pilot project and the Court's continued goal of promoting greater transparency, accountability, and accessibility to the court system, the justices have amended the Policy to terminate its status as a pilot project and to allow each circuit court to decide whether it wishes to implement EMC," the press release said.

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