While the Illinois Supreme Court pilot project opens the door to still and television camera coverage in the trial courtroom, the extent of implementation may be slow and not uniform. Since each chief judge of each circuit has to apply to the high court for permission to allow cameras in the courtrooms. Some may apply now, later or not at all.
Among judges, opinions vary regarding the use of cameras in the courtroom. Chief Judge Timothy Evans has long been a supporter of allowing their use citing that it will help the public better understand what actually goes on at court. It could help correct the incorrect impressions created by television programs.
However, McHenry County Chief Judge Michael J. Sullivan points out that significant logistical adjustments will need to be made to implement the use of cameras. He points out that it will require collaboration among circuit judges, clerks, staff and the sheriff's department, among others.
The greatest reservations seem to come from prosecutors and public defenders. They point out that the presence of cameras may change the behavior of witnesses. Some may "play to the camera" rather than providing straight-forward testimony. Some persons may even hesitate being witnesses at all , if they fear that their own personal business will wind up in the public media, on the news and not just in a written public court record.
The rules enunciated by the Supreme Court do provide for input from witnesses on the decision to have cameras present. And many types of personally sensitive cases are excluded from such coverage. But prosecutors still worry about not making an already stressful experience for witnesses, even more so.
State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office indicates that they still have issues that they want to explore and discuss. Perhaps the advisory committee of judges, lawyers and members of the media, planned by Chief Judge Evans, will serve as a useful forum for all the stakeholders to make their views known and help each circuit decide how they will respond to this new option for their trial courts.