Flam v. Flam

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Appellate Procedure
  • Date Filed: 06-08-2015
  • Case #: 12-17285
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O’Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judge Clifton and Senior District Judge Rakoff
  • Full Text Opinion

Federal magistrate judges have no authority to make determinations on motions to remand because magistrate judges lack the authority to rule on dispositive motions.

Laura and Marshall Flam were divorced. As part of the settlement, Laura received a pension account in which Marshall was the trustee. Laura claimed Marshall failed to provide her the required account statements and otherwise breached his fiduciary duty. In June 2012, Laura filed suit in state court. Marshall removed the case to federal district court, arguing the suit was governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”). Laura moved to remand to state court, and the federal magistrate judge issued an order of remand. Marshall filed a motion for reconsideration, which the district court failed to review. Marshall appealed the denial. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that because federal magistrate judges lack the authority to rule on dispositive motions, magistrate judges have no authority to make determinations on motions to remand. The panel explained that motions to remand are dispositive because they effectively keep parties out of federal court. When a magistrate judge is presented with such a motion, the magistrate judge should provide a report and recommendation to the district court. The panel noted, however, that the district court is not barred from reviewing remand decisions, and in the current instance, the panel concluded the district court should have done. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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