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The Legal Holiday

By Declan Cleary on Tuesday, September 5th, 2017
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The State of Illinois lists 12 official holidays on the Department of Central Management Services website (11 on years without a general election).[1] The full list of Illinois State Holidays also includes the Friday preceding Easter (Good Friday) and Casimir Pulaski’s Birthday.[2]  As of December of last year, a House bill, since relegated to the Rules Committee, sought to expand that list to include Former President Barack Obama’s birthday.[3] The selection of what holidays qualify as a “state holiday” (and subsequent implementation), offers more legal discourse than one might initially expect.

For example, though Good Friday is included in the statute identifying state holidays, it’s observance has since been restricted by a 7th Circuit Ruling on Free Exercise Clause and Establishment Clause bases.[4] This decision has since been reflected in practice for Illinois government offices, not only for Good Friday, but also for Pulaski’s Birthday.[5] It is possible that, if adopted, administrative treatment of the former President’s birthday would similarly be largely nominal in nature. This, however, poses the question: Why designate a state holiday if the government offices stay open?

Ultimately, there are several Illinois statutes relating to the treatment of designated state holidays. These include treatment of the holidays by school systems,[6] in terms of banking,[7] and even calculating the duration of periods of times specified in State legislature.[8] The application of holidays in these laws in not uniform. Bank holidays designated by the State of Illinois create merely create an option for banks to remain open,[9] while certain school holidays create time off for students, yet create the option for parent-teacher conferences on holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Labor Day.[10]

In the future, while the institution of new public holidays is relatively easy,[11] the implementation of them will likely not receive the full effect of the law afforded to holidays with a history of cultural observance.[12]


[1] State Holidays, Illinois Department of Central Management Services, https://www.illinois.gov/cms/Employees/Personnel/Pages/StateHolidays.aspx (last visited September 5, 2017).

[2] Illinois Holidays: What you need to know, Business and Legal Resources (January 26, 2017), http://www.blr.com/HR-Employment/Benefits-Leave/Holidays-in-Illinois#.

[3] Bill Status of HB0231, Illinois 100th General Assembly, Legal Information Institute, http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=231&GAID=14&DocTypeID=HB&LegID=99194&SessionID=91&GA=100&SpecSess=0 (last visited September 5, 2017).

[4] Metzl v. Leininger, 57 F.3d 618; Joanne Yasus, What’s in a Name – Nothing Good if It’s Friday: The Seventh Circuit Invalidates Good Friday Public School Holiday, 29 J. Marshall L. Rev. 1031 (1996) (outlining reasoning and effects for the Circuit’s decision to issue a permanent injunction against the Good Friday school closing statute).

[5] Id.

[6] 105 ILCS 5/24-2 (2013).

[7] 205 ILCS 630/17 (1997).

[8] 10 ILCS 5/1-6 (1998). This statute, though relating to holidays, differentiates itself from the others in that it deals with a question of administrative necessity arising out of the observance of holidays (and weekends). Id. This general principle of “pushing off” deadlines that fall on a weekend or holiday is mirrored in the administrative treatment of holidays which fall on a weekend. 80 IL Admin. Code 303.200 (available at ftp://www.ilga.gov/jcar/admincode/080/080003030B02000R.html).

[9] 205 ILCS 630/17 (1997).

[10] 105 ILCS 5/24-2 (2013).

[11] 205 ILCS 630/17 (1997) (providing that the Governor may unilaterally proclaim a legal holiday).

[12] New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas have such a strong cultural significance as to mandate a more concerted government response.

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