The Shadow Judiciary

57 Pages Posted: 29 Jul 2019 Last revised: 9 Feb 2021

See all articles by Charlotte Alexander

Charlotte Alexander

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business

Nathan Dahlberg

Georgia State University

Anne M. Tucker

Georgia State University College of Law

Date Written: July 25, 2019

Abstract

Magistrates function as a sort of shadow judiciary, assisting U.S. district court judges — and sometimes standing in their shoes — in managing caseloads, resolving disputes, making law, and choosing winners and losers. Yet we lack basic knowledge about magistrates themselves, the rules that govern their activity, and the ways in which they execute their duties. To fill those gaps, this Article offers a detailed typology of the district-level local rules and standing orders that govern magistrate operations in civil cases. It also describes a case study of ten years of magistrate practice in a single federal district court, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, in resolving summary judgment motions in employment law cases. The case study reveals that the involvement of a magistrate makes a difference to the outcome, and that the way that a magistrate became involved (by automatic operation of court rules, by consent of the parties, or by the discretion of the district judge) matters as well. These findings suggest multiple avenues for future research, nationwide, to understand the complexities of the interactions between magistrates and district judges, and the role of magistrates more generally.

Keywords: federal civil litigation, magistrate judges, text mining, court data, judicial decision making

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Charlotte and Dahlberg, Nathan and Tucker, Anne M., The Shadow Judiciary (July 25, 2019). Review of Litigation, vol. 39, 2020, Georgia State University College of Law, Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3426768 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3426768

Charlotte Alexander

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business ( email )

800 West Peachtree St.
Atlanta, GA 30308
United States

Nathan Dahlberg

Georgia State University ( email )

35 Broad Street
Atlanta, GA 30303-3083
United States

Anne M. Tucker (Contact Author)

Georgia State University College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 4037
Atlanta, GA 30302-4037
United States
(404) 413- 9179 (Phone)

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