NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · ILLINOIS · Broadcasting · Sep. 16, 2005
High court maintains ban on cameras in courtrooms
Sep. 16, 2005 · A renewed effort to modify a 25-year-old rule barring cameras in trial courtrooms was blocked without comment Wednesday by the Illinois Supreme Court.
The court declined to consider a petition from a group of news organizations to allow cameras and microphones in trial courtrooms. Such recording devices are not allowed in trial courts in Illinois, but reporters may record oral arguments at the high court and appellate courts.
Earlier this summer, a coalition of media groups including the Illinois News Broadcasters Association, the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, asked the high court to modify its rules to allow taping in all courtrooms.
The state Supreme Court last rejected such a request in 1997.
Although the news groups had in recent years attempted to petition the court for a change, it was time to try again, said Springfield, Ill., attorney Donald Craven, the news broadcaster group’s general counsel.
“There have been a series of retirements in the court so a lot of new members are on the court,” he said. “This whole group had never been asked.”
The petition was denied Wednesday without comment, leaving Craven and the news organizations in the dark as to the court’s reasoning. Their only insight into the denial came from an Associated Press interview with Chief Justice Robert R. Thomas Wednesday.
Thomas said that justices were concerned about how coverage could affect juror and public opinion and that the court decided there was not enough support to allow the taping.
“There was no sentiment for change,” Thomas told The Associated Press.
Craven said all the parties are “obviously disappointed in that the court won’t consider [the request] and more disappointed that we asked in the petition to at least to start a dialogue. All we got was a ‘No, petition denied,'” he said.
It is not likely that the group plans to file another request in the near future, Craven said.
“The answer to ‘What’s next?’ is nothing. . . . We’ll just go back to trials with pen and paper.”