The Illinois News Broadcasters Association (INBA) has named Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride as the "2012 Illinoisan of the Year."
The group honored Kilbride with its annual award this past weekend at its fall convention in St. Louis, according to a news release from the court.
The award recognizes several of Kilbride's efforts as chief justice, including the court's pilot program that allows cameras in some of the state's courtrooms.
Jim Gee, immediate past president of the INBA, said in a statement released Friday that the chief justice was unanimously selected as this year's award recipient.
"In addition to his work in creating a pilot program to allow cameras and microphones in Illinois trial courts, we are honoring Chief Justice Kilbride for his overall support of openness in government, including his advocacy for a commission to examine ways in which the courts can be made more accessible to the public," Gee said.
Kilbride said in a statement that he is honored and humbled to receive the award.
"I accept it on behalf of the entire Supreme Court," Kilbride said. "As chief justice, I have recommended initiatives to further open the Illinois courts to the public, but these initiatives became reality only with the unanimous approval of my colleagues."
Kilbride also noted what an honor it is for him "to join the elite company of past winners of this award."
Past recipients of the INBA's award include former Illinois governors Jim Edgar and Jim Thompson; Mike Lawrence, former director of the Paul Simon Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale; former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald; and the late Illinois Supreme Court Justice Seymour Simon.
The award, Kilbride said, "means much to me and to the Court because it comes from an association outside of the legal profession that examines us through a different lens from our colleagues on the bench and in the practice of law."
In regards to the Supreme Court's cameras-in-the-courtrooms program, Kilbride said it remains a pilot project, "but the indications are that the experiment is working well and, with the cooperation of the news media, is expanding across the state."
The pilot project began in January. Since then, the court's release notes, 13 counties in five judicial circuits have been approved to participate in the program with several more circuits and counties expected to join in before the end of the year.