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16th Circuit committee puts final touches on courtroom camera rules

YORKVILLE – A courtroom media committee Wednesday put the final touches on rules for how the 16th Judicial Circuit will handle media coverage of a trial.

The Illinois Supreme Court in January approved a pilot program for news cameras and electronic news recordings in Illinois trial courtrooms for the first time.

The 16th Judicial Circuit includes Kane, DeKalb and Kendall counties. A committee comprised of judicial and county officials along with attorneys from across the district have put together a policy to give to 16th Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Spence, who would then present it to the Illinois Supreme Court for implementation.

"He was hoping that we could move the matter to him if not [Wednesday], shortly after [Wednesday]," committee chairman Timothy McCann, Kendall County's presiding judge, told committee members. "He was hoping to have this up and running by mid-November."

A murder trial that began Tuesday in Kankakee County marked the first time cameras have been allowed in an Illinois courtroom.

The committee doesn't plan to meet again. Instead, members plan to comment electronically with each other and then send the policy to Spence.

The new rules will apply to the new 23rd Judicial Circuit, which will be comprised of DeKalb and Kendall counties. The change will take effect in December.

"The timing is a bit awkward since we are going to split the district in six weeks," said Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon, a committee member.

As part of the proposed rules, witnesses can file a notice of objection to being part of media coverage of a trial. The pilot project prohibits media coverage in juvenile, divorce, adoption, child custody, evidence suppression and trade secret cases.

In addition, the Illinois policy gives absolute discretion to the trial judge on whether to allow camera and audio coverage of a proceeding.

McMahon said he thought the committee's rules will protect the "sanctity of the proceedings."

"I am confident that the local media will understand the concerns and comply with the rules," he said.

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