Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580, 4 (2003)

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Cite as: 538 U. S. 580 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

her rather than the District Judge preside over the entire case. App. 10-11. Withrow agreed orally, id., at 11, and later in writing, App. to Pet. for Cert. 20a. A lawyer from the Texas attorney general's office who attended the hearing, but was not permanently assigned to Withrow's case, indicated that she would have to "talk to the attorneys who have been assigned the case to see if [the petitioners] will execute consent forms." App. 11.

Without waiting for the petitioners' decision, the District Judge referred the case to the Magistrate Judge for final disposition, but with the caveat that "all defendants [would] be given an opportunity to consent to the jurisdiction of the magistrate judge," and that the referral order would be vacated if any of the defendants did not consent. App. to Pet. for Cert. 21a. The Clerk of Court sent the referral order to the petitioners along with a summons directing them to include "[i]n their answer or in a separate pleading . . . a statement that 'All defendants consent to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge' or 'All defendants do not consent to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge.' " App. 13. The summons advised them that "[t]he court shall not be told which parties do not consent." Ibid. Only Reagan, who was represented by private counsel, gave written consent to the referral; Roell and Garibay, who were represented by an assistant in the attorney general's office, filed answers but said nothing about the referral. App. to Pet. for Cert. 17a.

The case nevertheless proceeded in front of the Magistrate Judge, all the way to a jury verdict and judgment for the petitioners. When Withrow appealed, the Court of Appeals sua sponte remanded the case to the District Court to "determine whether the parties consented to proceed before the magistrate judge and, if so, whether the consents were oral or written." Id., at 13a. It was only then that Roell and Garibay filed a formal letter of consent with the District


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