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Roell v. Withrow

United States Supreme Court
538 U.S. 580 (2003)


Withrow (plaintiff) filed a civil rights suit against Roell and others (defendants). During a preliminary hearing before a magistrate judge, Withrow agreed to have the magistrate judge hear the case. The district court then referred the case to the magistrate judge although Roell had never consented to her jurisdiction. The clerk had sent a summons to Roell, which included a request for consent to allow the case to be heard by the magistrate judge. Roell’s response to the summons did not include an answer to the request for consent. However, Roell voluntarily submitted to the magistrate judge’s jurisdiction and did not object when the magistrate judge represented that she believed Roell had consented. At trial, the magistrate judge entered a verdict for Roell. Withrow appealed and the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sua sponte remanded the case to the district court for a determination on whether Roell had consented to the magistrate judge’s jurisdiction. The district court referred the remand to the magistrate judge who ruled that although Roell had indicated consent by his actions, consent could not be implied by the conduct of the parties. Accordingly, the magistrate judge determined that her original ruling was invalid. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Souter, J.)

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