Laptops, tablets to be allowed in 11th Circuit courtrooms

Laptops, tablets to be allowed in 11th Circuit courtrooms

BLOOMINGTON — News media will be able to use laptop computers, tablet devices and smart phones to transcribe notes or "live blog" court proceedings starting May 1 in the 11th Judicial Circuit.

Chief judge Elizabeth Robb of McLean County entered an administrative order Friday allowing the limited use of such electronic devices in the courtrooms of Ford, McLean, Livingston, Logan and Woodford counties.

The measure is part of a pilot program started in 2012 by the Illinois Supreme Court to start allowing the use of electronic devices by the media in state courts on an experimental basis, with the aim of eventually pulling Illinois for good out of the group of 14 states that ban extensive media access at trials.

McLean County, so far, is the only county in the 11th Judicial Circuit that has started allowing the media to use recording devices such as cameras in the courtroom, according to the judicial circuit's trial court administrator, William Scanlon.

The new order expands the pilot program to allow the use of laptop computers, tablet devices, smart phones or similar devices to "transcribe notes or live blog the proceedings" in all five counties.

Cameras, however, remain allowed only in McLean County courtrooms, Scanlon said.

Media must apply to be "credentialed" to use the electronic devices by the designated media coordinator. Media using electronic devices in the courtroom must also be identified with a badge or credential "clearly displayed at all times" and must be "seated in the section of the courtroom designated for this purpose."

All devices must be in "silent mode or configured so that device and software sounds and interfaces shall not provide audio or visual distractions to the court ..," the order says.

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