Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580, 6 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

enters [a] final judgment, lack of consent and defects in the order of reference are jurisdictional errors" that cannot be waived. 288 F. 3d 199, 201 (CA5 2002). It also reaffirmed its prior holding that " 636(c) consent must be express; it cannot be implied by the parties' conduct." Ibid. Finally, the appellate court decided that petitioners' postjudgment consent did not satisfy 636(c)(1)'s consent requirement. Id., at 203. We granted certiorari, 537 U. S. 999 (2002), and now reverse.


The Federal Magistrate Act provides that "[u]pon the consent of the parties, a full-time United States magistrate judge . . . may conduct any or all proceedings in a jury or nonjury civil matter and order the entry of judgment in the case, when specially designated to exercise such jurisdiction by the district court." 28 U. S. C. 636(c)(1). Unlike non-consensual referrals of pretrial but case-dispositive matters under 636(b)(1), which leave the district court free to do as it sees fit with the magistrate judge's recommendations, a 636(c)(1) referral gives the magistrate judge full authority over dispositive motions, conduct of trial, and entry of final judgment, all without district court review. A judgment entered by "a magistrate judge designated to exercise civil jurisdiction under [ 636(c)(1)]" is to be treated as a final judgment of the district court, appealable "in the same manner as an appeal from any other judgment of a district court." 636(c)(3).2

2 Prior to the 1996 amendments to the Act, see Federal Courts Improvement Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-317, 207(1)(B), 110 Stat. 3850, parties could also elect to appeal to "a judge of the district court in the same manner as on an appeal from a judgment of the district court to a court of appeals." 28 U. S. C. 636(c)(4) (1994 ed.) (repealed 1996). If the latter course was pursued, the court of appeals could grant leave to appeal the district court's judgment. 636(c)(5) (same). In all events, whether the initial appeal was to the court of appeals under 636(c)(3) or to the district court under 636(c)(4), the parties retained the right to seek ultimate review from this Court. 636(c)(5) (same).


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