LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Supreme Court declared Juneteenth a statewide court holiday Wednesday over the objections of two Republican justices who said taxpayers will be shortchanged.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas, two months after the Confederacy had surrendered. It was about 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in Southern states.
Congress and President Joe Biden created a federal holiday a year ago.
“Juneteenth is an event of profound importance in the history of our nation, and mandatory observance of this holiday by courts statewide sends a message that Michigan’s judiciary values the life experiences of all who seek justice,” said Tom Boyd, state court administrator.
Juneteenth will be the 13th paid holiday when Michigan courts are closed. This year it will be observed on June 20, a Monday.
“This is far more than observed by the private sector,” Justice Brian Zahra said. “I believe as servants of the people we owe it to them to work diligently and regularly to provide good public service.”
Justice David Viviano said courts slogging through a COVID-19 backlog of cases will face another burden.
“Our courts handle matters that intimately affect the lives of Michigan’s residents. ... Because the (Supreme Court) is not acting as a responsible steward of our court system, I respectfully dissent,” he said.