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Kane judges near OK of cameras in courtroom plan

GENEVA - Kane County's judges soon could receive approval to make the county's courtrooms more visible, after the county's judiciary has put the finishing touches on a rule to allow media cameras into court locally for the first time.

This week, the judges of the 16th Judicial Circuit, which covers Kane County, sent the proposed new rules to the Illinois Supreme Court for review and approval.

"The courts have always been, in the vast majority of cases, open to the public and accessible," said Judy Brawka, chief judge of the 16th Circuit. "This sort of expands that audience, that's how I see it."

Brawka said she expects the state Supreme Court to reply regarding her circuit's rules proposal within 60 days.

Kane County's circuit judges have considered the rule changes since last year, when the state Supreme Court first established a pilot program to allow news cameras and electronic news recordings in Illinois trial courtrooms for the first time.

While other counties have completed updating their rules and procedures in the meantime, Kane County's efforts have been hampered by a flurry of complications, said Brawka.

She noted that in the past 12 months, the 16th Circuit has changed chief judges; has divided in half, with DeKalb and Kendall counties splitting from Kane to create a new judicial circuit; and the 2012 elections resulted in the selection of a new clerk of the circuit court in Kane County.

And earlier this year, the state Supreme Court continued to change its rules pertaining to cameras in circuit courtrooms.

However, Brawka said the circuit judges have gathered a consensus on the rules changes.

The general thrust of the rules have remained unchanged since the start. In all cases, media cameras will be allowed in courtrooms only with the permission of the judge hearing the case. And media professionals will need to request that permission before the trial begins, Brawka said.

She said much of the discussion recently has centered on refining the way journalists should submit photographic or video coverage requests. And judges also have "tweaked" the definition of who would be considered a media professional.

Brawka declined to provide a copy of the proposed rules. But she said the rules will be published shortly after they are approved by the state Supreme Court.

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