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Hastings Law Journal

Authors

Mark S. Kende

Abstract

Federal magistrate-judges have gained increasing amounts of power and authority within the federal court system. This is certainly helpful given the heavy docket that most Article III federal district judges maintain. Recently, however, legislation went into effect that gave magistrates contempt powers, including the authority to hold an attorney or party in contempt through summary proceedings. This Article examines the constitutionality of this granting of contempt powers to non-Article ITI judges. It concludes that the United States Supreme Court would likely rule unconstitutional the granting to magistrates of summary contempt authority. However, the Court would likely uphold these contempt powers as applied in non-summary proceedings where the parties have consented to be before the magistrate. The Supreme Court needs to step in and clarify the distinction between magistrates and federal judges in order to reinforce the meaning of Article III.

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