Roell v. Withrow, 538 U.S. 580, 16 (2003)

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

Thomas, J., dissenting

do so before litigation—or at the very least before a magistrate judge enters a binding judgment.


While I agree with the majority's view that 636(c)(1) was "meant to preserve a litigant's right to insist on trial before an Article III district judge," ante, at 588, and to prevent "coercive referrals," ante, at 589, the majority's construction of this provision does not follow the Court's "settled policy to avoid an interpretation of a federal statute that engenders constitutional issues." Gomez v. United States, 490 U. S. 858, 864 (1989).

"A critical limitation on [the] expanded jurisdiction [of magistrate judges] is consent. " Id., at 870. Reading 636(c)(1) to require express consent not only is more consistent with the text of the statute, but also ensures that the parties knowingly and voluntarily waive their right to an Article III judge. A party's express consent is a clear and unambiguous indication that the party had sufficient notice it was freely waiving its right. Accordingly, I would choose this interpretation over the majority's view that implied consent suffices to give a magistrate judge dispositive authority over a case. Cf. Aetna Ins. Co. v. Kennedy ex rel. Bogash, 301 U. S. 389, 393 (1937) (holding that the parties, by their request for directed verdicts, did not waive their right to trial by jury, and observing that "courts indulge every reasonable presumption against waiver"); Ohio Bell Telephone Co. v. Public Util. Comm'n of Ohio, 301 U. S. 292, 307 (1937) (holding that a telephone company did not waive its right to have the value of its property determined upon evidence presented in open proceedings by not opposing consolidation of two proceedings, and noting that "[w]e do not presume acquiescence in the loss of fundamental rights").

Moreover, the majority's test for determining whether a party has given adequate implied consent—"where . . . the litigant or counsel was made aware of the need for consent


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