SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Refusing to break with long-standing tradition, the Illinois Supreme Court said “no” again yesterday to allowing news media cameras and microphones in trial courtrooms amid concern about coverage of high-profile cases.
The court dismissed without comment a request from several news organizations to allow the recording devices, which are allowed in courtrooms in many other states. Reporters are allowed to record oral arguments at the Illinois Supreme Court and appellate courts, but cameras and microphones are not permitted at trials.
Chief Justice Bob Thomas said in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday that justices were concerned about how coverage could affect juror and public opinion. He said the court decided there wasn’t enough support to allow the taping.
“There was no sentiment for change,” Thomas said.
The news groups, including the Illinois News Broadcasters Association, the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Broadcasters Association, had asked the court earlier this summer to modify its rules to allow taping in all courtrooms. That request was based on rules in place in Iowa for 25 years.
Steve Scott, president of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association, said the court has never made clear why it objects to letting reporters record trials.
“Why not give us the best tools possible to most accurately do our jobs?” said Scott, who works for WLS-AM radio in Chicago. “I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to allow the greatest access possible to the general public. Let us be the eyes and the ears of the public.”
The state’s high court last rejected the request in 1997.
Media groups had hoped a change in the makeup of the court would bring a different result and urged the court to follow the lead of more than 40 other states that allow some camera and microphone access in trial courts.
Scott said the result is frustrating because the court’s apprehension about possible problems prevents even a trial run of coverage from ever happening.
“I think we’re real disappointed that they didn’t give us a chance to give it a try,” Scott said. “I just don’t understand what makes Illinois different from other states.”