Thanksgiving Holidays in Courts all around the USA | November 23, 24 Thursday, Friday
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is right around the corner on November 23rd and 24th, 2023. As government institutions, courts at both the federal and state levels observe Thanksgiving as an official holiday and are closed. However, the impacts on court operations, from new case filings to scheduling hearings, vary across the different court systems.
History of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving origins date back…
The first Thanksgiving celebrations…
Establishment as national holiday
Thanksgiving was declared a national holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln…
Courts and the Thanksgiving Holiday
Both federal and state courts in the United States officially recognize Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday as judicial holidays. But how do closures impact their operations?
At the federal level, closures affect institutions like:
The Supreme Court building is closed on Thanksgiving and no arguments or conferences happen.
Federal Appeals Courts that cover regional judicial circuits also remain closed for the holiday weekend.
Lowest federal courts where most trials occur are closed and have no proceedings.
Similarly, closures occur in state courts such as:
Courts of original jurisdiction like Superior and Circuit courts are closed.
State appeals courts do not hear oral arguments over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The highest courts in each state observe the holiday closures.
Impact on Court Operations
When courts close for Thanksgiving holiday, how are operations like filings, pending cases, and schedules affected?
Attorneys cannot formally file new cases and documents or apply for emergency orders while courts are closed. Instead, they must wait until courts reopen after the holiday weekend.
For cases awaiting decisions or with looming deadlines, the closures likely shift calendars and postpone progress until courts resume full operations.
Unless considered an emergency matter, any hearings, trials, conferences, or other proceedings set for Thanksgiving day or the following Friday are cancelled and rescheduled.
When Courts are Closed
Though operating status can vary slightly by jurisdiction, most courts are closed for these standard days:
All federal and state courts are closed on the holiday, Thursday November 23rd 2023.
Day After Thanksgiving
The day following Thanksgiving, Friday November 24th 2023, is also an observed holiday where courts are closed.
Court closures don’t necessarily mean the buildings are entirely empty though. Skeletal staffs ensure critical functions continue:
Who Still Works
Bailiffs, marshals, maintenance crews, and security officers may still report to duty. Some judges’ clerks and administrative assistants may also work.
What Gets Done
Behind-the-scenes work like mail processing, upkeep of records and IT systems, facility maintenance, and security still takes place.
Closing courts for two full days coupled with the weekend inevitably creates case backlogs once business resumes. What issues arise?
Effects on Workload
Court staff must tackle accumulated emails, mail, filings, and scheduling changes when returning after Thanksgiving. Judges and attorneys also face increased work.
Prioritizing Most Urgent Matters
Courts must triage the backlogged cases and legal matters, determining which require immediate attention and responses when reopening.
Thanksgiving court closures impact federal and state judiciaries nationwide. But the holiday weekend provides equally valuable downtime for hardworking legal professionals before year-end busy seasons start up again. When courts reopen, operations get back on track swiftly.
Why are courts closed?
Courts close to observe the federal Thanksgiving holiday so staff can celebrate and spend time with family. Closures parallel those of other government institutions.
What about emergency filings?
Critical emergency matters may get addressed by skeleton crews working holidays. But filings generally wait until courts reopen.
How do courts catch up after holiday closures?
Court staff triage backlogged cases when returning to work. New filings also slow briefly after reopening to handle accrued documents and scheduling issues.
Is the day after Thanksgiving a federal holiday?
Yes, the Friday after Thanksgiving is considered part of the federal holiday and courts/government offices are closed.
Do state courts follow the federal holiday schedule?
Most state courts adhere to federal holiday closures for consistency though some jurisdictions may observe slightly different schedules.