United States Magistrates in the Federal Courts: Subordinate Judges

By Christopher E. Smith | Go to book overview
Save to active project


The creation of a new, subordinate judicial office within the courts represents a particular kind of reform intended both to increase judicial resources and to insure the flexible development and utilization of those resources. In the case of the U.S. magistrates, concerns about the constitutionality of implementing an authoritative judicial office dictated that Congress grant to the Article III based district judges the formal power to define precisely the tasks and roles of the newly created subordinate judges. Although the district judges possess the formal authority to define the magistrates' roles, the ambiguous guidance from statutory sources and the judges' lack of experience with authoritative judicial subordinates created opportunities for other factors, such as magistrates' expectations and established practices within districts, to influence the development of the subordinates' roles within each courthouse.

Some magistrates may be locked into specific roles because their supervising judges have firm opinions about how subordinate judicial officers ought to be utilized. As the example of District A illustrates, however, magistrates' roles can change, sometimes in ways that directly contradict the district judges' stated intentions, if there are shifts in the composition or quantity of case-processing demands upon the district court. Thus, the broad authority possessed by the magistrates makes them especially flexible resources whose responsibilities can adjust with sensitivity to changing judicial needs, regardless of whether district court officials have formally or rationally planned changes in the subordinates' roles. This adaptive quality of these broadly authoritative, subordinate judges creates the possibility that federal courts can respond flexibly to a variety of pressures without the infusion of resources necessary when the judiciary is composed only of actors (e.g., judges and law clerks) whose responsibilities and authority, although somewhat flexible, are more precisely defined. For example, expectations about the proper judicial behavior and demeanor for district judges, possessed by both the incumbents and the public, may limit or at least hinder judges' ability


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
United States Magistrates in the Federal Courts: Subordinate Judges


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 200

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?