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March 16th, 2012

Will Cameras in Madison County Courts Boost Fairness?

Video cameras appear to be on their way to the plaintiff-friendly courts of Madison County as part of a pilot program recently approved by the Illinois Supreme Court.

As reported by the Belleville News-Democrat, some “have criticized the concept, including attorneys who have expressed concern that it will turn trials into entertainment or intimidate witnesses from testifying.

“I think those are reasonable and legitimate concerns, and we have to take all reasonable steps to make sure that the process remains fair and that the ultimate result is truth and justice,” said States Attorney Tom Gibbons. “We certainly have to take great care to make sure it does not become a circus, and that the presence of cameras does not alter the process.”

Though ATRA has never actively advocated for cameras in courtrooms, it can see the potential for a positive impact on the dispensation of justice in Madison County’s civil courts.  Perhaps the unblinking presence of cameras there will make judges and the plaintiffs lawyers who bankroll their reelection campaigns a little more shy about colluding openly at the expense of fairness and targeted defendants.

In any case, ATRA’s Judicial Hellholes program will certainly be enhanced when it can post actual video of Madison County judges conducting pre-trial motions hearings and trials in which their rulings on venue, admission of evidence and other crucial issues will speak volumes while quieting some of the jurisdiction’s noisy defenders.

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