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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77028 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Evolving Role of US Magistrates in the District Courts
Journal: Judicature  Volume:64  Issue:10  Dated:(May 1981)  Pages:436-449
Author(s): S Puro; R L Goldman; A M Padawer-Singer
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 14
Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice
Washington, DC 20531
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This 1978 study of relationships between judges and magistrates in two U.S. District Courts in New York shows that magistrates save court time, alleviate docket pressures, and help avoid excessive delays.
Abstract: The data sources included magistrates' monthly reports to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, magistrates' case files, and criminal and civil docket sheets of the courts. Open-ended interviews were conducted with all full-time magistrates in both districts and with district judges. The judges were selected on the basis of the frequency and type of referral to magistrates, how current they were on their dockets, their change in the use of magistrates, and their years on the bench. Court personnel and lawyers, both on the governmental and private levels, who appeared frequently before the magistrates were also interviewed. A total of 60 legal proceedings in magistrates' and judges' courtrooms and in magistrates' chambers were observed. Findings indicated that magistrates played a significant role in the two courts, permitting district judges to delegate tasks in civil cases. The referral system also relieved the judges of routine or unsuitable duties. While maximizing judicial productivity, the referral system also ensured variety in the magistrate's duties as a result of differences in opinion among judges on what should be referred. Some judges felt that settlement matters, pro se petitions from prisoners, and dispositive motions were most appropriate, while others believed that these matters should be handled by an Article III judge. Thus, the magistrates were referred matters which spanned the range of Federal judicial duties. The referral systems operated well in the two districts, particularly in responding to judges' need for management of the pretrial phase of civil cases. However, an increase in hearing dispositive motions or trials by magistrates could cause them to become as overburdened as the judges. Development of magistrates' authority is discussed, as well as the question of broadening the discretion of district courts in using magistrates. Statistical data and footnotes are included.
Index Term(s): District Courts; Effectiveness; Judges; Magistrates; New York
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