Illinois Public Media News
The head of the Illinois State Bar Association says his group supports plans to allow cameras in courtrooms.
Association President John Locallo tells The Quincy Herald-Whig that his group considers it a great opportunity to bring access to the judicial system to the public.
The Chicago attorney says his group is excited about the plan.
Locallo made his comments Thursday in Quincy, where he addressed cameras in courts and other issues during a meeting with the Adams County Bar Association.
The Illinois Supreme Court has decided run a pilot program to test the use of cameras in state courtrooms. Locallo says he's had informal talks with some of his association's 33,000 members and support for the test program has been strong.
Fighting Illini men's basketball coach Bruce Weber will not return next season.
U of I Athletics Director Mike Thomas has announced that Weber, whose team lost to Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday, has been dismissed.
Weber came to Illinois in 2003, and guided the team to its first Big Ten title in more than 50 years, and a berth in the Sweet 16. In his second season, the team earned another Big Ten title, finishing with a record of 37-2, losing only to North Carolina in the NCAA title game. But the Illini have had a rocky season, losing 12 of their last 14 games. The Illini closed the year 2-12.
Weber said he is proud of what he accomplished at Illinois, but knows coaching is a bottom-line business.
"Trying to get us to come together as a team, we all had a link and mine was the last one," Weber said. "I only wish I could have connected it, and we had something special to finish the season."
Assistant Coach Jerrance Howard will fill in for Weber on an interim basis. Athletic Director Mike Thomas said a national search will begin to find a new head basketball coach.
"We will move quickly, but we will move diligently, and I'm excited about the prospects of this program for the future," Thomas said. "Certainly, a key to that is feeling like we have the right person in place to lead what is a very national program. "
Weber has three years remaining on his contract, and will receive a buyout of $1.3 million annually.
This is the third dismissal for Thomas, who fired football coach Ron Zook and dismissed women's basketball coach Jolette Law a week ago.
The Fighting Illini are out of the Big Ten Tournament after one game.
Illinois lost a second half 7-point lead, and fell to Iowa 64-to-61 Thursday in what could be Coach Bruce Weber's final game.
After the game, he said his team is likely on the bubble for an NIT bid. DJ Richardson says the rumors about Coach Weber's future were not a distraction on the court.
"You hear stuff going around campus, people say stuff here and there," Richardson said. "But we still do what we have to do, and the coach still coaches us, and he does a good job of getting us through the tough situations. Me and Brandon (Paul), the upperclassmen have been leaders. We try wherever we can to help the coach out on the court, we just have got to do a better job out there."
Illinois closed out the regular season losing eight of nine. Meyers Leonard had 18 points and six rebounds, and D.J. Richardson and James Bertrand added 11 points each for Illinois.
Matt Gatens scored 20 points for the Hawkeyes. Iowa has won four of six and will play number 1 seed Michigan State Friday.
The League of Women Voters and the NAACP hosted a forum Wednesday night at the Champaign City Building with the Democratic candidates running for Champaign County circuit clerk and auditor in this month's primary.
Each set of candidates was given an hour to answer a series of questions, but they were not allowed to address each other with their responses. The auditor candidates went first.
Just about a year ago, a referendum to eliminate the office of auditor as an elected post was on the ballot. Voters turned it down, by a vote of 57 percent to 43 percent. The auditor's office has been controversial in Champaign County after email and phone records reported by the News Gazette showed current Auditor Tony Fabri spent little time at work.
The Democratic candidates in the race are George Danos, Kevin Sandefur, and Ben Carlson. They say that they want to bring confidence and transparency back to the office.
George Danos, whose financial background includes jobs in the healthcare and insurance industries, said he would concentrate on making sure county government is fiscally responsible.
"The county deserves a veritable watchdog in the office, one zealous about making sure that our tax dollars are well spent," Danos said. "One who is accessible to both the public and party officials."
Kevin Sandefur is an accounting information systems developer. He said if elected, he would see to it that county finance information gets posted online.
"Who else is going to step up and provide the information to the public in a way that is easy enough for them to understand, easy enough for them to obtain in order to provide the accountability and transparency and openness in government that we need?" Sandefur said.
Meanwhile, Ben Carlson, who works in the insurance industry, said he would like to make the office more efficient by updating technology.
"You know, we've got over 25 years of technology in the current office," Carlson said. "Are you going to keep the current accounting system? Are we going to discuss how to improve that?"
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination for auditor will face Deputy County Clerk John Farney in the general election.
Meanwhile, the Democratic candidates for circuit clerk also took part in the forum. With Linda Frank stepping down as Champaign County circuit clerk after nearly 20 years in that post, the three Democrats running for her seat in the March primary are Barb Wysocki, Lori Hansen, and Evelyn Underwood.
During the forum, the candidates agreed that making court information more accessible to the public should be a priority.
Barb Wysocki, who is a former Champaign County Board member, said part of that involves doing a better job training staff on using technology.
"When the same data has to be entered at two or three different points just to get information circulating or moving between offices, that to me is a human problem more than it is perhaps a technological problem," Wysocki said.
Lori Hansen, who is a law librarian for the Champaign County Circuit Court, said she also wants to find ways to improve services through the use of technology. She said computer stations should be installed in the lobby of the courthouse, so that the public can print out forms before a court appearance.
"Access to justice requires access to information, and information is power," Hansen said. "I want to give the information and power to the people who use the circuit clerk's office."
Hansen added that she would like to keep the self-help desk at the courthouse open, which had briefly closed because of budgetary reasons.
Evelyn Underwood, who is a former member of the Urbana Education Association, agreed that maintaining the self-help desk is a good idea. Underwood said she would also like to see more people serve on juries.
"I can't make them serve, but I would like to encourage them to serve on juries," Underwood said. "It will bring about justice if we have more people of color serving on the juries."
The circuit clerk candidate who wins the primary will face off against Republican Stephanie Holderfield, who currently sits on the county board.
The primary election is set for March 20, 2012.
(Photos by Sean Powers/WILL)
The University of Illinois is losing the Pacifica Quartet.
The Grammy-winning string ensemble has accepted an offer from Indiana University, and is leaving at the end of the spring semester. In addition to a large touring and recording schedule, the group performed often at the U of I's Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Center Director Mike Ross says they've matured beautifully in their nine years on campus. He says the ensemble's time at the U of I has allowed their relationship to change over time.
"One of the forms that I enjoy the most is the form of collaborative thinking, and brainstorming, and imagining the future," Ross said. "As well as ways to enable the art forms that we work with to have as much impact on the well-being of individuals and families and communities and societies on our global collective as possible."
Violinist Sibbi Berhnardsson, who is a member of the quartet, said the move had nothing to do with Illinois' finances, or other issues at the U of I. He said the quartet struggled with the move, but saw it as a challenge to become part of the storied school of music at Indiana.
"We are very much aware that we are giving up a lot, " Berhnardsson said. "And the only reason we accepted this was it just felt it was a good time sort of take on a new challenge. They have wonderful faculty there, and it's a storied music school.'
In 2009, the Pacifica Quartet won a Grammy for the Best Chamber Music Performance of 2008.
(Photo courtesy of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts)
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says city council members were not thinking about accommodating a new Meijer's store, when they approved an expansion of liquor licenses Tuesday night.
But one of the six new licenses created by the ordinance is expected to be granted to Meijer's for the store it plans to build on North Vermilion Street. The new licenses are only for grocery and drug stores.
The ordinance initially fell short of passage. But then one of the aldermen voting "no" asked to have the measure reconsidered ... and the measure passed on the 2nd vote.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer says the initial opposition was due to the mistaken notion that the ordinance would create new licenses for regular package liquor stores.
"And the council was not in favor of this, promoting any additional package liquor store license", Eisenhauer said. "And so I think, once that became more clear to them, then they were willing to support this.
The new liquor ordinance splits drug and grocery stores into a new "PG" liquor license category, while package liquor stores will stay under the "P" grouping.
Eisehnauer says existing liquor stores may feel the pressure from new stores like Meijer's, but not as much as if the new licenses went to stores specializing in liquor.
"Simply because the intention of grocery stores or the large box retail stores is to generate new traffic into the market place for all sales, one of which would include alcoholic beverages", says Eisenhauer.
Another new liquor license category will cover micro-breweries.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The University of Illinois is speaking out against legislation to do away with discounted tuition waivers for the children of University employees.
Employees at public universities in the state who have been in their jobs for at least seven years are eligible to receive half-price tuition for their children. U of I spokesman Tom Hardy says the waivers help give the university more of competitive edge over other institutions.
"It's available to employees at other colleges and universities that are peer institutions of this university," Hardy said. "So, for a competitive reason to be able to recruit and retain the best employees, we need to be able to have a provision like this."
The Board of Higher Education says the tuition waivers for employees' children cost a little over $8 million last year and went to more than 2,000 students.
Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) is sponsoring the legislation. It passed a House committee last week and will move to the full House. The Chicago Democrat says the state cannot afford to provide the benefit.
Meanwhile, the state currently owes the University of Illinois about $387 million.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said the team is releasing quarterback Peyton Manning after a 14-year run that included one Super Bowl title and four M-V-P awards.
The team needed to cut Manning this week to avoid paying him a $28 million dollar bonus. An emotional Manning delivered a tearful farewell Wednesday during a news conference with Irsay by his side.
"I haven't thought yet about where I'll play, but I have thought a lot about where I've been, and I've truly been blessed," Manning said. "I've been blessed to play here. I've been blessed to be in the NFL."
The 35-year-old Manning came off a series of operations to his neck and missed all of last season.
He said he has no plans to retire and hopes to be playing in the NFL at the start of next season. Manning said he plans to live in Indianapolis, even after he moves to a different team.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said Manning will never be forgotten and Larry Bird, now an executive with the Indiana Pacers, simply called Manning the best athlete to ever play in the Indiana capital.
The Colts are widely expected to replace him with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Officials at an Illinois company that lost a bid for state employees' insurance contracts say they're not surprised by an audit critical of the procurement process.
The state audit was released Wednesday. It finds serious problems with the way Illinois awarded $7 billion in contracts for state workers' health insurance.
A spokeswoman for Urbana-based Health Alliance says many of the auditor's findings were pointed out in the company's original protest of the procurement.
The audit comes as the state is settling a lawsuit by Health Alliance over the contracts.
Health Alliance spokeswoman Jocelyn Browning says the company is focused on submitting a bid in a new request for proposals that's part of the settlement being worked out.
Health Alliance insures about 90,000 state employees and their dependents.
An Illinois appeals court has ordered a new trial for a man convicted in the 1980 rape and murder of a 3-year-old girl based on new DNA evidence.
The Fourth District Appellate Court reversed a trial court judgment that denied a new trial for 50-year-old Andre Davis.
Davis is serving an 80-year prison sentence after being convicted twice in the death of Brianna Stickle in Rantoul.
At Davis' request, DNA testing was conducted within the last few years that wasn't available at the time of the crime.
The court noted in its opinion this week that none of the evidence was a DNA match for Davis.
Davis is represented by the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University's law school.
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