UC Law Journal


Since the initial Federal Magistrates Act of 1968, district courts continue to utilize magistrates in less traditional adjunct capacities as a means of alleviating the overwhelming federal docket. With this expanded role of the magistrate, courts are confronted with the issue of vesting judicial power in a judicial officer not protected by the provisions of article III of the United States Constitution. Recent decisions curtailing magistrates' functions have relied on the traditional article III analysis to conclude that the expanded use of magistrates threatens the separation of powers. Criticizing such an approach, this Note argues that a due process analysis more appropriately addresses the concerns of expanded magistrate adjudication. Specifically, the Note balances the effectiveness of expedited adjunct jurisdiction against a litigant's right to an independent judiciary. Focusing on the problem of magistrate-conducted felony voir dire, the Note acknowledges the potential implication of fundamental fairness, but concludes that the safeguards ensuring the constitutionality of magistrate referrals will ensure as well the fundamental fairness of magistrate adjudication.

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