Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580, 8 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

consent so shown can count as conferring "civil jurisdiction" under 636(c)(1), or whether adherence to the letter of 636(c)(2) is an absolute demand.

So far as it concerns full-time magistrate judges,4 the font of a magistrate judge's authority, 636(c)(1), speaks only of "the consent of the parties," without qualification as to form, and 636(c)(3) similarly provides that "[t]he consent of the parties allows" a full-time magistrate judge to enter a final, appealable judgment of the district court. These unadorned references to "consent of the parties" contrast with the language in 636(c)(1) covering referral to certain part-time magistrate judges, which requires not only that the parties consent, but that they do so by "specific written request." Cf. also 18 U. S. C. 3401(b) (allowing magistrate judges to preside over misdemeanor trials only if the defendant "expressly consents . . . in writing or orally on the record"). A distinction is thus being made between consent simple, and consent expressed in a "specific written request." And although the specific referral procedures in 28 U. S. C. 636(c)(2) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73(b) are by no means just advisory, the text and structure of the section as a whole suggest that a defect in the referral to a full-time magistrate judge under 636(c)(2) does not eliminate that magistrate judge's "civil jurisdiction" under 636(c)(1) so long as the parties have in fact voluntarily consented. See King v. Ionization Int'l, Inc., 825 F. 2d 1180, 1185 (CA7 1987) (noting that the Act "does not require a specific form . . . of consent").5

written or oral declaration, or record entry, or it may be implied from some act done with the intention of appearing and submitting to the court's jurisdiction' " (quoting 4 Am. Jur. 2d, Appearance 1, p. 620 (1995))).

4 The parties do not dispute that the Magistrate Judge who presided over the trial was a full-time Magistrate Judge.

5 The textual evidence cited by the dissent is far from conclusive. The dissent focuses on the fact that 636(c)(1) allows a magistrate judge to exercise authority only "[u]pon" the parties' consent, and it concludes that this temporal connotation forecloses accepting implied consent. But the


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