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Our view: McHenry County lags in public access to courts

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

It’s good to see McHenry County embrace technology when it comes to filing court documents.

The McHenry County Courthouse now offers electronic filing for legal documents in civil cases, allowing attorneys and pro-se litigants, or those who represent themselves, to file legal documents over the Internet, rather than in person or through the mail.

Nobody is more pleased with this development than out-of-county attorneys, or “runners” on their behalf, who in the past would have to make a trip to the courthouse in Woodstock just to file their legal documents.

McHenry County is the sixth county in Illinois to offer the service. While it is great to see the county out in front when it comes to electronic filing, we remind you that the county continues to lag behind when it comes to better public access to the courtroom.

As more and more counties in Illinois allow cameras in the courtroom – including neighboring counties – McHenry County continues to stand on the sideline, preventing the taxpayers who pay the bills from better access to and more transparency in the judicial system.

Cameras in the courtroom are unobtrusive. Professional media representatives are acting professionally. Judges are reporting virtually no problems with the pilot programs across Illinois.

Just this week, the Daily Chronicle – a sister paper to the Northwest Herald based in DeKalb County – had a video camera inside the courtoom during a hearing for Billy Curl, who was trying to withdraw his plea agreement in the killing of Northern Illinois University student Antinette “Toni” Keller.

The video brought the public inside the court proceeding to see and hear it for itself.

While we applaud the county’s progressiveness with electronic filing, it’s disappointing that McHenry County continues to deny the public better access to its judicial system.

We are ready to work with all interested parties to provide local residents with this better access.

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