Byline: Derek Hawkins
7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Case Name: Victor Brown v. Sue Peters, et al.,
Case No.: 19-1420
Officials: WOOD, Chief Judge, and SCUDDER and ST. EVE, Circuit Judges.
Focus: 8th Amendment Violation Deliberate Indifference
In Coleman v. Labor & Industry Review Commission, 860 F.3d 461 (7th Cir. 2017), we held that a magistrate judge does not have the authority to enter a final judgment in a case when only one partyin that case, the plaintiffhas consented to the magistrate judge's jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. 636(c). That rule holds, we said, even if the magistrate judge is engaged in nothing more than the screening process required for a case brought by a prisoner who wishes to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 1915A. If the magistrate judge concludes that the case must be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6), that is a disposition on the merits, and therefore, in the absence of valid consents, the judge is empowered to do no more than submit a report and recommendation to an Article III judge for final resolution. Coleman, 860 F.3d at 475.
The present appeal presents a new wrinkle for cases at the screening stage: is it possible for the state defendant to consent in advance to the magistrate judge's jurisdiction to conduct the initial case screening and, if the plaintiff has also filed his consent, to enter a final judgment dismissing the case with prejudice? That is exactly what the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin have attempted to accomplish through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that became effective in 2018, apparently in response to Coleman.
We hold that the "Limited Consent to Magistrate Judge Jurisdiction To Conduct Initial Case Screening" adopted by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Justice satisfies the requirement in 28 U.S.C. 636(c) that both parties consent to magistrate judge authority to resolve a case with a final judgment. That includes the authority to decide that a prisoner's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In the present case, that is exactly what Magistrate Judge Duffin concluded. Only two named defendants were before him, and he had this to say about them: [T]he court notes that [Brown] names Sue Peters and Jean Lutsey as defendants but does not allege...