Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580, 3 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

Souter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and O'Connor, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Stevens, Scalia, and Kennedy, JJ., joined, post, p. 591.

Lisa R. Eskow, Deputy Solicitor General of Texas, argued the cause for petitioners. With her on the briefs were Greg Abbott, Attorney General, Philip A. Lionberger, former Solicitor General, R. Ted Cruz, Solicitor General, Melanie P. Sarwal, Assistant Solicitor General, and Charles K. Eldred, Assistant Attorney General.

Amanda Frost argued the cause for respondent. With her on the brief was Brian Wolfman.

Justice Souter delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Federal Magistrate Act of 1979 (Federal Magistrate Act or Act) expanded the power of magistrate judges by authorizing them to conduct "any or all proceedings in a jury or nonjury civil matter and order the entry of judgment in the case," as long as they are "specially designated . . . by the district court" and are acting "[u]pon the consent of the parties." 28 U. S. C. 636(c)(1). The question is whether consent can be inferred from a party's conduct during litigation, and we hold that it can be.


Respondent Jon Michael Withrow is a Texas state prisoner who brought an action under Rev. Stat. 1979, 42 U. S. C. 1983, against members of the prison's medical staff, petitioners Joseph Roell, Petra Garibay, and James Reagan, alleging that they had deliberately disregarded his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U. S. 97 (1976). During a preliminary hearing before a Magistrate Judge to determine whether the suit could proceed in forma pauperis, see 28 U. S. C. 1915, the Magistrate Judge told Withrow that he could choose to have

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