The Constitutional Conundrum of Magistrates' Authority to Act Independently of Judicial Supervision | Brouse McDowell | Ohio Law Firm

The Constitutional Conundrum of Magistrates' Authority to Act Independently of Judicial Supervision

By Richard S. Walinski, Mark Wagoner (Shumaker Loop & Kendrick) on July 2021

As published in The University of Toledo Law Review, Volume 52: Issue 1.

Brouse McDowell attorney Richard Walinski has co-authored an article withMark Wagoner of Shumaker Loop & Kendrickthat was recently published in The University of Toledo Law Review. The article,The Constitutional Conundrum of Magistrates' Authority to Act Independently of Judicial Supervision, discusses the authority of magistrates — subordinate judicial officers — in the federal and Ohio court systems.

Ohio Civil Rule 53(C)(2) has allowed magistrates to preside over jury trials in civil cases when all parties consent. The Ohio Supreme Court recently amended the rule, however, to prohibit trial court judges, after referring cases to magistrates, from supervising them and from reviewing their rulings. The recent amendment prescribes that only appellate courts may review the magistrates’ actions in civil jury-cases. The stated goal in amending the rule was to adopt the federal procedure for supervising magistrates and reviewing their rulings in cases where parties consent to having a magistrate preside over the case.

By federal statute, when parties in civil cases consent, magistrate judges may sit as substitute judges and independently exercise federal judicial power with authority equal to that of federal district court judges. The Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled whether Congress has the constitutional authority to empower federal magistrate judges to preside, if the parties in civil cases consent, over civil cases without either supervision or review by a district court judge. The authors explain, however, why the Court’s recent decisions interpreting the federal constitution’s Appointments Clause indicate that Congress lacks constitutional power to elevate subordinate judicial officers by granting authority to supplant district court judges and to independently exercise the judicial power of the United States.

Similarly, the Ohio Supreme Court has not considered whether the Ohio Constitution allows subordinate judicial officers to independently exercise the state’s judicial power, which the constitution vests in Ohio courts. The Ohio Constitution differs markedly from the federal process and is unique among state constitutions. The authors explain how provisions in the Ohio Constitution combine to prohibit anyone but an elected judge from exercising the judicial power of Ohio.

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