United States Magistrate Judges: Present but Unaccounted for


Philip M. Pro

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.)


Duke University School of Law


magistrate judges, district court judges, Article III, Magistrate Judges System


The relationship between United States district judges and United States magistrate judges is unique within the American judiciary. United States magistrate judges are the first judges encountered in most federal civil or criminal cases, and play an increasingly important role in the adjudication of virtually every case in United States district court. Yet, while the behavior of Article III judges has been the subject of active academic scrutiny, the behavior of magistrate judges, who are appointed to renewable eight year terms by their Article III district judge colleagues, has largely been ignored. This paper reports the results of interviews of thirty-four magistrate judges and district judges, and through their experiences, explores whether their judicial decision making relationship, or a motivation for reappointment or promotion to Article III status, influences the judicial behavior of magistrate judges, and that of their district judge colleagues. The answers to these questions appear to be nuanced and dependent on variables not previously considered, and are best understood in the context of the remarkable evolution of the magistrate judges system which has existed for less than fifty years.


Originally submitted as a theses in fulfillment of the requirements of the Master of Judicial Studies (LL.M.) degree. Then subsequently revised as a law review article in the Nevada Law Journal.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Judicial process, United States magistrates, Judges, District courts, Judges--Selection and appointments