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Info: Handling Magistrate Orders

Background: A magistrate judge is overseeing your federal lawsuit
Problem: You're unsure what the magistrate's involvement will entail
Solution: You read this information on how to handle federal magistrates

I. Definitions

Federal Magistrate
"UNITED STATES [FEDERAL] MAGISTRATE: appointed by US District Court judges, magistrates have powers that include the ability to hear and determine specified pretrial motions pending before a district court, to conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, and to submit proposed findings of facts and recommendations for disposition."
"a procedure whereby a party asserts that a particular witness, line of questioning, piece of evidence, or other matter is improper and should not be continued, and asks the court to rule on its impropriety or illegality. A timely objection on the record, stating the grounds thereof, must be made to evidence rulings admitting or excluding evidence if the ruling is to be challenged later on appeal. This is necessary to preserve the point on appeal. As to other rulings or orders entered by a trial court, the failure to object will not prejudice a party's right to challenge on appeal the action taken if he or she had no opportunity to object. See also challenge; motion [MOTION IN LIMINE]."

II. Legal Citations

"a judge may designate a magistrate judge to hear and determine any pretrial matter pending before the court, except a motion for injunctive relief, for judgment on the pleadings, for summary judgment, to dismiss or quash an indictment or information made by the defendant, to suppress evidence in a criminal case, to dismiss or to permit maintenance of a class action, to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and to involuntarily dismiss an action. A judge of the court may reconsider any pretrial matter under this subparagraph (A) where it has been shown that the magistrate judge’s order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law."
"(2) Objections. Within 14 days after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition, a party may serve and file specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations. A party may respond to another party’s objections within 14 days after being served with a copy. Unless the district judge orders otherwise, the objecting party must promptly arrange for transcribing the record, or whatever portions of it the parties agree to or the magistrate judge considers sufficient."
Local Rule 3-1 11th Cir. R. |
"A party failing to object to a magistrate judge’s findings or recommendations contained in a report and recommendation in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) waives the right to challenge on appeal the district court’s order based on unobjected-to factual and legal conclusions if the party was informed of the time period for objecting and the consequences on appeal for failing to object. In the absence of a proper objection, however, the court may review on appeal for plain error if necessary in the interests of justice."

III. Notes

  • Crucial Point: Appellate Courts Cannot Review Issues That You Did Not Object To!
    "We have concluded that, where a party fails to timely challenge a magistrate’s nondispositive order before the district court, the party waived his right to appeal those orders in this Court. Maynard, 342 F.3d at 1286; see also Farrow v. West, 320 F.3d 1235, 1249 n. 21 (11th Cir.2003) (holding that a pro se litigant waived his right to appellate review of a magistrate’s nondispositive order by not objecting to the order before the district court, as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a))"

    - see Smith v. Orange County, 487 F.3d 1361 (11th Cir. 2007)

  • Important Point: Magistrate Judges are not Article III Judges
    "Magistrate judges do not share the privileges or exercise the authority of judges appointed under Article III of the United States Constitution; rather, magistrate judges draw their authority entirely from an exercise of Congressional power under Article I of the Constitution."

    "As previously recounted, magistrate judges do not hold life-tenure, nor is their compensation undiminishable. Therefore, these puisne judges cannot exercise “the judicial Power of the United States.”"

    - see Thomas v Whitworth, 136 F.3d 756 (11th Cir. 1998)

  • Consent is Mandatory: Magistrates Cannot Preside Over Your Case Without Consent
    "The statute does not afford magistrate judges the right to preside over trials (except for the trial of misdemeanor criminal offenses in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 3401). Section 636(c) does permit a district judge to designate a magistrate judge to "conduct any or all proceedings in a jury or non-jury civil matter," but only "[u]pon the consent of the parties." See Hall v. Sharpe, 812 F.2d 644, 646-47 (11th Cir. 1987) (observing that section 636(c) authorizes a magistrate judge to conduct civil jury trials, but stressing that "[e]xplicit, voluntary consent is crucial to this procedure" in order to obviate concerns about constitutionality and protect against the wholesale delegation of certain classes of cases and litigants); see also Fowler v. Jones, 899 F.2d 1088, 1092 (11th Cir. 1990) (adding that "`valid consent is the linchpin of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)'") (citation omitted). The plain language of the statute establishes that if one of the parties in a civil lawsuit pending before a district court states his unwillingness to consent to a trial before a magistrate judge, the district court cannot designate a magistrate judge to preside over the trial."

    "The underlying point is the same, though: it can never be genuinely "harmless" for a litigant, over his objection, to be compelled to try some or all his case before a non-Article III judicial officer not entitled to exercise the power of an Article III judge."

    - see Thomas v Whitworth, 136 F.3d 756 (11th Cir. 1998)

  • Unappeallable: Magistrate Orders Are Not Appeallable
    "The law is settled that appellate courts are without jurisdiction to hear appeals directly from federal magistrates. Id.; United States v. Cline, 566 F.2d 1220, 1221 (5th Cir. 1978); United States v. Haley, 541 F.2d 678 (8th Cir. 1974)."

    - see United States v. Renfro, 620 F.2d 497, 500 (5th Cir. 1980)

V. Bibliography

VI. Conclusion

Beware that if you fail to object to a magistrate's ruling then the appellate court will probably say you've waived that issue.

Congratulations! You're now booked up on how to handle orders from Magistrate Judges.

Please get the justice you deserve.


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