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Our view: Better access to our courts

Count the Northwest Herald as among those willing and able to participate in the planning process for allowing cameras in McHenry County courtrooms.

We were pleased to read in Monday’s newspaper that Illinois’ 22nd Circuit Court, essentially McHenry County, is making progress on this initiative.

“We are looking to move forward with extended media coverage in the 22nd Circuit,” McHenry County Court Administrator Dan Wallis told us. “In the very near future, we will be reaching out to ... media outlets that would potentially cover courtrooms here to sit down to discuss how exactly that will work.”

Until this year, cameras – both still and video – were not allowed in Illinois trial courts. Illinois was one of just 14 states that didn’t allow their use.

But earlier this year, Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas Kilbride announced a pilot project in which the 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Whiteside, Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties, would open their courtrooms to cameras. Since then, nine additional counties in four more circuit courts have joined the pilot project.

To date, all of the circuit courts involved in the project have reported successful progress.

“To the extent that the media is utilizing and requesting cameras in the courtrooms, they are working well,” Wallis said.

The next step will be to open up all of Illinois’ circuit courts to allowing cameras. It’s been our opinion that opening courtrooms to the extended coverage gives people a better understanding of how the criminal justice system works.

We’re ready to work with local court officials to make that happen.

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