Burton v. Schamp

In these consolidated appeals from prisoners’ civil rights actions, a magistrate judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaints before the defendants consented to the magistrate’s jurisdiction. The Third Circuit vacated the dismissal orders and remanded to the District Court. The Third Circuit noted that a magistrate judge could acquire jurisdiction to decide the case only by the parties’ consent, under 28 U.S.C. § 631(c)(1). And “consent of the parties” does not mean consent only of the prisoner-plaintiff. And the jurisdictional requirement cannot be waived. Here, the defendants did not consent before the magistrate dismissed the complaints. Thus, the Court ruled that the magistrate judge had no authority to dismiss the plaintiffs’ complaints because it did not have jurisdiction. To confer jurisdiction, the magistrate needed the consent not only of the prisoner-plaintiffs but also of the defendants being dismissed from the case or granted summary judgment.

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