United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Jeffrey T. Gilbert United States Magistrate Judge
Jamal Sharif ("Plaintiff') has moved to withdraw his
consent to proceed before a Magistrate Judge in this civil
action against Dr. Arthur Funk, Dr. Saleh Obaisi, Dr. A.
Martija, and Wexford Health Sources, Inc.
("Defendants"). [ECF No. 41.] Pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(c) and Local Rule 73.1, counsel for all the
parties signed a form consenting to the jurisdiction of a
United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings in this
case, including entry of final judgment. For the reasons
stated below, Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw Consent to
Magistrate Judge [ECF No. 41] is granted.
filed his initial complaint on January 22, 2016, alleging
infliction of cruel and unusual punishment by Defendants
while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Stateviile Correctional
Center. [ECF No. 8.] In an amended complaint filed on May 13,
2016, Plaintiff alleges Defendants inflicted cruel and
unusual punishment by failing to provide medical care to
treat Plaintiffs medical condition. [ECF No. 21.] On July 14,
2016, counsel for all the parties informed the then-assigned
District Judge that they planned to jointly consent to
proceed before the assigned Magistrate Judge. [ECF No. 28.]
On September 21, 2016, the parties filed a Joint Consent to
Exercise of Jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge
signed by counsel for Plaintiff and counsel for Defendants.
[ECF No. 33.] In that form, the parties agreed "any and
all further proceedings in this case, including trial"
would proceed before a Magistrate Judge. [Id.] Seven
days later, the District Court Judge issued an order
reassigning this case to this Magistrate Judge. [ECF No. 36.]
parties first appeared before this Court on November 15, 2016
for a status hearing. [ECF No. 38.] At that time, Plaintiffs
counsel advised the Court that he received a letter from
Plaintiff that morning stating Plaintiff did not consent to
the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge for all proceedings.
[ECF No. 38.] Counsel said Plaintiff only intended to consent
to the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge for purposes of
settlement. [Id.] The parties informed the Court
they were not prepared to settle at that time and a date was
set for the parties to return for a status hearing after
Plaintiffs counsel had an opportunity to consult with his
client about the letter he had received that morning.
counsel appeared again on December 13, 2016 for a status
hearing. Defendants' counsel did not appear. [ECF No.
39.] Plaintiffs counsel informed the Court that Plaintiff had
a scheduled appointment with a urologist the next day that
could impact the continued viability of Plaintiffs claim. At
that time, the Court also raised the question of Plaintiffs
consent to the Magistrate Judge's jurisdiction.
Plaintiffs counsel acknowledged that the ball was in his and
Plaintiffs court on that issue, so to speak.
December 22, 2016, the Court received a letter from Plaintiff
expressing his objection to his counsel having consented to
the jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge. [ECF No. 40.]
Plaintiffs counsel then filed a Motion to Withdraw Consent to
Magistrate Judge before the District Court Judge on January
10, 2017. [ECF No. 41.] The motion was stricken by
the District Judge, who advised Plaintiff to
notice the motion before the Magistrate Judge due to the
parties' previously-filed consent. [ECF No. 46.] On
January 19, 2017, Plaintiff noticed the motion before the
Magistrate Judge. The Court asked Plaintiffs counsel to
submit a memorandum in support of the motion to withdraw
consent citing applicable authority for the relief requested.
[ECF No. 49.] Plaintiffs counsel filed the requested
memorandum on February 1, 2017. [ECF No. 51.] The Magistrate
Judge gave Defendants until February 16, 2017 to respond to
the motion and memorandum. [ECF No. 49.] The Defendants did
not file a response and have not raised any objection or
opposition to Plaintiffs Motion.
may consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge for
"any and all proceedings in a jury or non-jury civil
matter." 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). Consent to the
jurisdiction of a magistrate judge, however, is not simply a
tactical decision that can be made by a party's counsel
alone. Williams v. Romero, 1993 WL 376500 at *3 (7th
Cir. Sept. 24, 1993) ("[I]t is the waiver of the right
to trial before an Article III judge, "). The parties
must knowingly and voluntarily consent to a non-Article III
judge. Wellness Int'l Network Ltd. v. Sharif,
135 S.Ct. 1932, 1948 (2015) ("[A] litigant's
consent-whether express or implied-must still be knowing and
voluntary."); see also Roell v. Withrow, 538
U.S. 580, 589 (2003) ("It was thus concern about the
possibility of coercive referrals that prompted Congress to
make it clear that 'the voluntary consent of the parties
is required before a civil action may be referred to a
magistrate for a final decision.'").
Seventh Circuit, a party may consent to a magistrate
judge's jurisdiction via his counsel's signature if,
in signing the consent form, his counsel is acting within the
scope of his authority. Williams, 1993 WL 376500, at
*3. If counsel signs the consent form without his
client's permission and instruction, he acts outside the
scope of his authority to represent his client. See
Id. (noting that because the plaintiff never gave his
attorney explicit permission to consent to a magistrate
judge, the attorney acted outside the scope of his
from both Plaintiff and his counsel indicate strongly that
Plaintiffs counsel did not act within his authority by
signing the form consenting to proceed before this Magistrate
Judge. In his Motion to Withdraw Consent to Magistrate Judge,
Plaintiff said he never intended to consent to the
jurisdiction of the Magistrate Judge for anything more than
settlement of his case. [ECF No. 41.] In his letter to the
Court, the Plaintiff further stated he did not sign the
consent form himself. [ECF No. 40.] Plaintiffs counsel
concedes he mistakenly signed the consent form without a
clear understanding of Plaintiff s wishes to consent only for
settlement purposes. [ECF No. 51.] Plaintiffs dissatisfaction
with the consent given by his counsel was first brought to
the attention of this Court on November 15, 2016, when
counsel first appeared. [ECF No. 38.] Plaintiffs notice of
his objection to consent was timely. The issue was raised
before this Court less than two months after the consent form
was signed. Proceedings in this matter have not progressed
since reassignment of the case.
no party objects to Plaintiff withdrawing consent to the
jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge and no substantive ruling
has been made since the consent was docketed. Defendants
raised no objection to Plaintiffs request to withdraw
consent, despite having the opportunity to do so. [ECF No,
49.] Plaintiff and his counsel both agree consent was
mistakenly communicated. The Court therefore grants
Plaintiffs motion to withdraw consent to its jurisdiction.
reasons stated above, Plaintiffs Motion to Withdraw Consent
to Magistrate Judge [ECF No. 41] is granted. This case is