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Allen v. Meyer

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

June 20, 2014

KELVIN ALLEN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
MEYER, Correctional Officer; BOTELLO; TRISHA; ZAMORA; ADAIR; ZUNIGA, Defendants-Appellees

Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California: October 16, 2013.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. Gerald B. Cohn, Magistrate Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 1:09-cv-00729GBC.

Caitlin Sinclaire Blythe (argued), George C. Harris, Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Kenneth T. Roost (argued), Deputy Attorney General, Kamala Harris, Attorney General of California, Jonathan L. Wolff, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Thomas S. Patterson, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, San Francisco, California, for Defendants-Appellants.

Before: Sidney R. Thomas and M. Margaret McKeown, Circuit Judges, and Mark W. Bennett, District Judge.[*] Opinion by Judge McKeown.

OPINION

Page 867

McKEOWN, Circuit Judge:

We must decide whether we have jurisdiction to review the validity of a judgment entered by a magistrate judge who failed to obtain the consent of both parties, as required by 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). We conclude that we do. Because the magistrate judge entered judgment on behalf of the district court without the parties' consent, the judgment was invalid. Accordingly, we remand this case to the district court with instructions to vacate the invalid judgment and to conduct further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Background

Kelvin Allen filed this pro se action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that several correctional officers (the " officers" ) at Corcoran State Prison violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. After the magistrate judge dismissed the complaint with leave to amend, Allen amended his complaint. The officers then moved to dismiss Allen's amended complaint for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e.

Allen consented to jurisdiction before a magistrate judge, but the record confirms--and the parties concede--that the officers never did the same. On two occasions during the pendency of the motion to dismiss, the magistrate judge ordered the officers to reject or consent to magistrate-judge jurisdiction. After the magistrate judge's first order, the officers filed their reply brief but failed to address the consent issue. Acknowledging that the officers had not yet consented to his jurisdiction, the magistrate judge then issued a second order and set a deadline for the officers to respond. Inexplicably, without waiting for the officers' response or for this second deadline to pass, the magistrate judge granted the officers' motion to dismiss and entered judgment against Allen. Allen timely appealed.

Analysis

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we have jurisdiction over " appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States." We also " have jurisdiction to determine whether we have jurisdiction." E.g., Aguon-Schulte v. Guam Election Comm'n, 469 F.3d 1236, 1239 (9th Cir. 2006). Where, as here, a magistrate judge enters judgment on behalf of the district court, our jurisdiction on appeal " depends on the magistrate judge's lawful exercise of jurisdiction." Anderson v. Woodcreek Venture Ltd., 351 F.3d 911, 914 (9th Cir. 2003); accord Kofoed v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local 48, 237 F.3d 1001, 1003 (9th Cir. 2001). Because our jurisdiction to adjudicate the underlying merits of this appeal hinges on the magistrate judge's proper exercise of jurisdiction, we have the authority to review the antecedent question of whether the ...


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