Bastidas v. Chappell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 07-01-2015
  • Case #: 12-55024
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Berzon for The Court; Circuit Judges Pregerson and Wardlaw
  • Full Text Opinion

When a magistrate judge believes to be issuing a nondispositive order, the judge may warn litigants that if they disagree and believe the matter to be dispositive, they have the right to file an objection to the determination with the district judge.

Pablo Bastidas was sentenced to fifty-five years in prison and sought a stay in order to exhaust claims that were previously part of his petition. After California courts denied his relief, he filed the federal habeas petition and also conceded that two of the four claims had not been present in the California Supreme court. The state did not respond to the motion to stay and abey. The magistrate judge denied it claiming that the new claims did not relate back to the original petition. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit looked into whether the magistrate judge exceeded her authority, with regard the orders denying appellants motion for stay and abeyance, dismissing two of the claims, denying as moot the application for leave to file a motion to dismiss, and striking the motion to dismiss. Under Mitchell v. Venezuela, magistrate judges are limited by 28 U.S.C. § 636; they may only hear and determine nondispositive matters but not dispositive matters. The panel noted that the Supreme Court has authorized the court of appeals to adopt rules concerning the availability of appellate review of a magistrate judge's report and recommendations towards dispositive matters. The court found that matters of forfeiture are inappropriate in this case. The panel claimed it implicated the structural principles of Article III because Congress had concerns regarding magistrate judges running afoul with the constitution. The panel explained that when a magistrate judge believes to be issuing a nondispositive order, the judge may warn litigants that if they disagree and believe the matter to be dispositive, they have the right to file an objection to the determination with the District Judge. The panel held that the magistrate judge was without authority to hear and determine, but rather was required to give the district court a report. VACATED and REMANDED.

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