Supreme Court rules magistrates may preside

Local Court News Posted on

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday in Gonzalez v. United States that allowing a magistrate judge to oversee jury selection does not deprive a criminal defendant of the right to a jury trial and complies with the Federal Magistrates Act. The holding affirmed a judgment of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that defendant's counsel may waive the right to have an Article III judge preside over voir dire, and that it was not error to proceed without first getting the defendant's personal consent. Justice Kennedy announced the judgment of the Court; his opinion was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Alito. Justice Scalia filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, and Justice Thomas wrote a dissent.

In affirming the Fifth Circuit ruling, Justice Kennedy wrote:

Numerous choices affecting conduct of the trial, including the objections to make, the witnesses to call, and the arguments to advance, depend not only upon what is permissible under the rules of evidence and procedure but also upon tactical considerations of the moment and the larger strategic plan for the trial. These matters can be difficult to explain to a layperson; and to require in all instances that they be approved by the client could risk compromising the efficiencies and fairness that the trial process is designed to promote.

In a separate concurrence, Justice Scalia agreed with the conclusion but not with the reasoning upon which it was based. He wrote:

I would not adopt the tactical-vs.-fundamental approach, which is vague and derives from nothing more substantial than this Court’s say-so.

In his dissent, Justice Thomas advocated overruling the precedents for the decision and wrote:

Where, as here, a mistaken interpretation of a statute leaves the Court with no principled way to answer subsequent questions that arise under the statute, it seems to me that the better course is simply to acknowledge and correct the error.

Legal News Media

Legal News is the top headline legal news provider for lawyers and legalprofessionals. Read law articles and breaking news from law firm's across the United States to get the latest updates. We reserve the right, at our discretion, to change, modify, add, or remove portions of the site at any time. Your This site is solely for your personal use. You are, of course, welcome to print or otherwise copy material from this site for your personal use. However, you may not distribute, exchange, modify, sell or transmit anything you copy from this Site, including but not limited to any text, images, audio and video, for any business, commercial or public purpose. Any unauthorized use of the text, images, audio and video may violate copyright laws, trademark laws, the laws of privacy and publicity and civil and criminal statutes.

 

American Bar Association – Start and Run a Law Firm

NewYorkStateBar.com – Starting a Law Firm

CPA Website Designs