On November 3, 2011 the District of Delaware judges signed an Order Relating to Utilization of Magistrate Judges. Among other things, the Order kicked off a one year Pilot Project “to evaluate Magistrate Judge utilization.” As part of the Pilot Project, the Clerk of the Court will randomly assign cases to Magistrate Judges. These matters will not initially be assigned to a District Judge and the Magistrate Judge will “be responsible for all pretrial management of the case, including determination of all nondispositive motions and scheduling.” Within 60 days from assignment of the Magistrate Judge, the parties may consent to Magistrate Judge jurisidiction by filing Form AO85. If they consent, the case will remain assigned to the Magistrate Judge for all purposes, including trial. After 60 days, if the parties do nothing, or if a case dispositive motion is filed within that time, the case will be randomly re-assigned to a District Judge. These cases, however, will be eligible for referral back to a Magistrate Judge for discovery purposes, ADR or for case management through case dispositve motions. There are categories of cases that will not be assigned to a Magistrate Judge as part of this Pilot Project, including patent cases in which one or more “related” case is pending. See Standing Order, section D. As always, parties to a matter not directly assigned to a Magistrate Judge may also consent to Magistrate Judge’s jurisdiction by filing the Consent Form (Form AO85).
The Standing Order also clarified the procedure for objecting to Magistrate Judge Rulings and Recommendations. See Standing Order, section C.