The Federal Magistrate Judges Association is a national association consisting of United States Magistrate Judges whose mission is to support the vital role of all Magistrate Judges as an integral part of our United States Judicial System: to promote appropriate utilization and understanding of the role magistrate judges play in the federal judiciary by advising and advancing policies that affect it members and the United States Courts as a whole; by actively participating in the review and modification of legislation, as well as substantive and procedural rules that affect the United States Courts and by promoting the independence of the federal judiciary.
The Association began in 1961 as the Organization of United States Commissioners. Its founding judges were David Goldstein of New Jersey, Samuel Meloy of Maryland, Frank Abbot of New York, George Hastings of Connecticut, Archie Meatyard, Jr., of Maryland, and Charles Ebel of Ohio.
Eight years later, the name of the organization changed to the National Council of Magistrates. The judges who were on the Board of Directors at that time included: Frank Baskin, President from 1971 to 1972; Bestor Witter, President from 1972 to 1973; and William Garrett, President from 1974 to 1975.
Four years later, the Association’s named changed to the National Counsel of Federal Magistrates. Ultimately, the Association’s name changed to the Federal Magistrate Judges Association in 1991. While the Association has had multiple names during its 50 year existence, its core mission has remained the same: (1) the efficient administrative of justice, to protect the integrity, dignity of the magistrate judge system(2) independence of the federal judiciary and (3) scholarly collaboration and influence in the federal judicial system.
Over the last 50 years, Magistrate Judges across the country have served in various capacities on governance committees in the District Courts of the United States, the Magistrate Advisory Committee of the Administrative Courts and various other leadership roles in the Judicial Conference. Magistrate Judges further play a integral role through its Rules Committee. The organization helps to shape procedural rules in both Civil and Criminal Cases. The association further has had a substantial scholarly impact on the legal system through its nationally recognized law review, Federal Courts Law Review.
Over the years the organization has grown from its original number of 25 to 593 active and retired magistrate judges. This growth is illustrative of the important role that U.S. Magistrate Judges have had in its supportive role in the U.S. Courts. In July 2012, the organization is celebrating its 50th Anniversary and its vision as set forth for the immediate future is to continue working to educate the public of the importance of an independent federal judiciary, collaborating with other federal judge organizations and improved communications among its members.
Frequently Asked Questions
A United States Magistrate Judge is a federal trial judge appointed to serve in a United States district court for a term of eight years. He or she is appointed by the life-tenured federal judges of a district court, District Judges, who supervise the activities of the Magistrate Judges by assigning civil cases for jury or non-jury trial upon consent of the parties and for pre-trial matters. Similarly criminal cases are assigned to Magistrate Judges on the consent of the parties, except for the trial of felony cases.
The current Magistrate Judge system was begun by Congress in 1968 expanding on the 175 year old United States commissioner system. The Magistrate Judges are appointed based upon the recommendations of a citizen’s merit screening committee. In 2011, in addition to the 527 full-time Magistrate Judge positions authorized there were 41 part-time judges and 3 combination Clerk of Court/Magistrate Judges who serve four year terms.
It is the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States to oppose restrictions on the utilization of Magistrate Judges by the district courts, Long Range Plan for the Federal Courts. This flexibility enables the courts to manage increasing caseloads with limited resources.
For the 12 month period ending September 30, 2010, Magistrate Judges performed 353,847 judicial duties in civil cases,. Among these were 241,971 civil pretrial duties, including 169,134 motions, 20,515 settlement conferences, and 52,322 other pretrial conferences.
They also performed 186,337 felony pretrial duties, including 98,115 motions, 38,921 pretrial conferences, and 2,222 evidentiary hearings.
Magistrate Judges terminated 12,470 civil cases with litigants’ consent in the 12 month period ending September 30, 2010. During the same 12 month period Magistrate Judges conducted 333 civil jury trials and 171 civil trials without jury. This use of Magistrate Judges to resolve civil cases, facilitated by means such as including them in a court’s civil case assignment system, has been a key component of many courts’ efforts to make the best use of judicial resources.
In the 12 month period ending September 30, 2010. Magistrate Judges submitted 21,385 recommended dispositions in prisoner cases (habeas corpus and civil rights). They completed 4,225 reports and recommendations in social security appeals. They conducted 2,369 trials in misdemeanor and petty offense cases and disposed of 116,983 cases. Magistrate Judges conducted 368,157 felony preliminary proceedings. Magistrate Judges’ volume of detention hearings (among the lengthiest of felony preliminary proceedings) reached 49,238 in the 12 month period ending September 30, 2010.