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Federal Magistrate Judge May Conduct Voir Dire without Defendant’s Personal Consent, Supreme Court Holds

A federal magistrate judge may conduct voir dire in a criminal case upon consent of a defendant’s attorney. No personal consent by a defendant is necessary, the Supreme Court decided May 12, 2008.

Homero Gonzalez was charged with several drug trafficking offenses. Gonzalez’s attorney consented to a magistrate judge conducting voir dire instead of a district judge. Gonzalez was found guilty and appealed, arguing, among other things, that his conviction should be reversed because he did not personally consent to a magistrate judge conduction voir dire. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected Gonzalez’s consent argument.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari and affirmed. “[A] magistrate judge may preside over jury examination and jury selection only if the parties, or the attorneys for the parties, consent. Consent from an attorney will suffice.” See: Gonzalez v. United States, 06-11612 (2008).

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Related legal case

Gonzalez v. United States