JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1976, Congress amended § 101 of the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U. S. C. § 636, to provide that a United States district judge may refer dispositive pretrial motions, and petitions for writ of habeas corpus, to a magistrate, who shall conduct appropriate proceedings and recommend dispositions.
Petitioner was convicted by an Ohio court in 1978 of fatally shooting her common-law husband during an argument.
The Court of Appeals of Cuyahoga County reversed. State v. Thomas, 64 Ohio App.2d 141, 411 N.E.2d 845 (1979). The court's syllabus
The last page of the Magistrate's report contained the prominent legend:
Despite this clear notice, petitioner failed to file objections at any time. She sought and received an extension of time to file objections through June 15, 1982, on the grounds that "this case entails many substantive issues and counsel needs more time to write his brief." However, petitioner made no further submissions on the merits to the District Court. Notwithstanding petitioner's failure to file objections, the District Judge sua sponte "review[ed] . . . the entire record de novo," App. 59, and dismissed the petition on the merits. Petitioner sought and was granted leave to appeal.
Petitioner's brief on appeal raised only the issue of the Battered Wife Syndrome testimony. The brief provided no explanation for petitioner's failure to object to the Magistrate's report. Counsel for petitioner waived oral argument, and the case was decided on the briefs. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed. 728 F.2d 813 (1984). Without reaching the merits, it held that petitioner had waived the right to appeal by failing to file objections to the Magistrate's report. Id., at 815. The court relied upon its prior decision in United States v. Walters, 638 F.2d 947 (1981), which established the prospective rule that failure to file timely objections with the district court waives subsequent review in the
In United States v. Walters, supra, the appellant failed to object to the Magistrate's report, and the District Court adopted that report as its disposition of the case. The appellant then brought an appeal. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit considered the threshold question whether the appellant's failure to apprise the District Court of its disagreement with the Magistrate's recommendation waived the right to appeal. The court held:
The nature of the rule and its prospective application demonstrate that the court intended to adopt a "rul[e] of procedure," id., at 950, in the exercise of its supervisory powers. Later opinions of the Sixth Circuit make it clear that the court views Walters in this way. See Patterson v. Mintzes, 717 F.2d 284, 286 (1983) ("In Walters . . . this Court promulgated [a] rule of waiver"); United States v. Martin, 704 F.2d 267, 275 (1983) (Jones, J., concurring) (characterizing Walters
It cannot be doubted that the courts of appeals have supervisory powers that permit, at the least, the promulgation of procedural rules governing the management of litigation. Cf. Cuyler v. Sullivan, 446 U.S. 335, 346, n. 10 (1980) (approving exercise of supervisory powers to require district court inquiry concerning joint representation of criminal defendants). Indeed, this Court has acknowledged the power of the courts of appeals to mandate "procedures deemed desirable from the viewpoint of sound judicial practice although
The Sixth Circuit's decision to require the filing of objections is supported by sound considerations of judicial economy. The filing of objections to a magistrate's report enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues — factual and legal — that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.
Even a sensible and efficient use of the supervisory power, however, is invalid if it conflicts with constitutional or statutory provisions. A contrary result "would confer on the judiciary discretionary power to disregard the considered limitations of the law it is charged with enforcing." United States v. Payner, 447 U.S. 727, 737 (1980). Thus we now consider whether the Sixth Circuit's waiver rule conflicts with statutory law or with the Constitution.
Petitioner argues that the Federal Magistrates Act precludes the waiver rule adopted by the Sixth Circuit. Her argument focuses on the permissive nature of the statutory language. The statute provides that a litigant "may" file objections, and nowhere states that the failure to do so will waive an appeal. Petitioner cites the Eighth Circuit's conclusion that "[o]ne would think that if Congress had wished such a drastic consequence to follow from the missing of the ten-day time limit, it would have said so explicitly." Lorin Corp. v. Goto & Co., 700 F.2d 1202, 1206 (1983). However,
Section 636(b)(1)(C) provides that "[a] judge of the [district] court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." The statute does not on its face require any review at all, by either the district court or the court of appeals, of any issue that is not the subject of an objection. Petitioner argues, however, that the statutory language and purpose implicitly require the district court to review a magistrate's report even if no party objects. If petitioner's interpretation of the statute is correct, then the waiver of appellate review, as formulated by the Sixth and other Circuits, proceeds from an erroneous assumption — that the failure to object may constitute a procedural default waiving review even at the district court level.
Petitioner first argues that a failure to object waives only de novo review, and that the district judge must still review the magistrate's report under some lesser standard. However, § 636(b)(1)(C) simply does not provide for such review. This omission does not seem to be inadvertent, because Congress provided for a "clearly erroneous or contrary to law" standard of review of a magistrate's disposition of certain pretrial matters in § 636(b)(1)(A). See Park Motor Mart, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 616 F.2d 603, 605 (CA1 1980). Nor
Petitioner also argues that, under the Act, the obligatory filing of objections extends only to findings of fact. She urges that Congress, in order to vest final authority over questions of law in an Article III judge, intended that the district judge would automatically review the magistrate's conclusions of law. We reject, however, petitioner's distinction between factual and legal issues. Once again, the plain language of the statute recognizes no such distinction.
It does not appear that Congress intended to require district court review of a magistrate's factual or legal conclusions, under a de novo or any other standard, when neither party objects to those findings. The House and Senate Reports accompanying the 1976 amendments do not expressly consider what sort of review the district court should perform when no party objects to the magistrate's report. See S. Rep. No. 94-625, pp. 9-10 (1976) (hereafter Senate Report); H. R. Rep. No. 94-1609, p. 11 (1976) (hereafter House Report). There is nothing in those Reports, however, that demonstrates an intent to require the district court to give any more consideration to the magistrate's report than the court considers appropriate.
Nor is the waiver of appellate review inconsistent with the purposes of the Act. The Act grew out of Congress' desire to give district judges "additional assistance" in dealing with a caseload that was increasing far more rapidly than the number of judgeships. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 268 (1976).
Petitioner contends that the waiver of appellate review violates Article III and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Article III vests the judicial power of the United States in judges who have life tenure and protection from decreases in salary.
We find that argument untenable. The waiver of appellate review does not implicate Article III, because it is the
We hold that a court of appeals may adopt a rule conditioning appeal, when taken from a district court judgment that adopts a magistrate's recommendation, upon the filing of objections with the district court identifying those issues on which further review is desired. Such a rule, at least when it incorporates clear notice to the litigants and an opportunity to seek an extension of time for filing objections, is a valid exercise of the supervisory power that does not violate either the Federal Magistrates Act or the Constitution. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
Under the rule adopted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and sanctioned by this Court, a party waives his right to appeal the judgment of the district court by failing to file timely objections to a magistrate's report. Because this rule conflicts with the plain language of the Federal Magistrate's Act, I dissent.
The Magistrate's Act states that "any party may serve and file written objections to [the magistrate's] proposed findings and recommendations. . . . A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U. S. C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Act clearly specifies the penalty for a party's failure to file objections to the magistrate's report — the party loses his right to de novo review by the district court. The Act does not require a party to file objections. And it does not, contrary to the Sixth Circuit's rule, provide that a party's failure to file objections deprives him of the right to any review by the district court,
A habeas applicant is entitled to appeal only the final order of the district court. 28 U. S. C. § 2253. I fail to understand how petitioner could have waived her right to appeal a final order before that order was rendered. The majority attempts to justify this result by characterizing the Sixth Circuit's rule as a simple exercise of its supervisory powers.
JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
The waiver rule adopted by the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is neither required nor prohibited by the Federal Magistrates Act. As a product of that court's supervisory power, it need not conform to the practice followed in other circuits. Hence, despite the appearance of a conflict among the circuits, the interest in uniform interpretation of federal law is not implicated and this Court might have been well advised simply to deny the petition for certiorari. Since the Court has elected to review the application of the Sixth Circuit's rule, however, I believe it should modify it in one respect.
As the Court demonstrates, in most cases it is surely permissible to treat the failure to file timely objections to a magistrate's report as a waiver of the right to review, not only in the district court, but in the court of appeals as well. But our precedents often recognize an exception to waiver rules — namely, when a reviewing court decides the merits of an issue even though a procedural default relieved it of the duty to do so. See, e. g., Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 800, 815-816 (1985) (reaching merits despite failure to object to jury instruction because Court of Appeals overlooked default); On Lee v. United States, 343 U.S. 747, 750, n. 3 (1952) ("Though we think the Court of Appeals would have been within its discretion in refusing to consider the point, their having passed on it leads us to treat the merits also"). It is for this reason that we may disregard a procedural default in a state trial court if a state appellate court addresses the federal issue. E. g., Ulster County Court v.
A similar exception should be recognized in this case. When the district court elects to exercise its power to review a magistrate's report de novo and renders an opinion resolving an issue on the merits, there is no danger of "sandbagging" the district judge. See ante, at 148. Moreover, if the district judge has concluded that there is enough merit in a claim to warrant careful consideration and explanation despite the litigant's failure to object before the magistrate, the interest in minimizing the risk of error should prevail over the interest in requiring strict compliance with procedural rules. Because the District Court decided the merits of petitioner's claim in this case, I would hold that she has a right to review in the Court of Appeals. To that admittedly limited extent, I respectfully dissent.
"[A] judge may also designate a magistrate to conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, and to submit to a judge of the court proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition, by a judge of the court, of any motion excepted in subparagraph (A), of applications for posttrial relief made by individuals convicted of criminal offenses and of prisoner petitions challenging conditions of confinement."
The motions excepted in § 636(b)(1)(A), and included by reference in subparagraph (B), are motions
"for injunctive relief, for judgment on the pleadings, for summary judgment, to dismiss or quash an indictment or information made by the defendant, to suppress evidence in a criminal case, to dismiss or to permit maintenance of a class action, to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and to involuntarily dismiss an action."
"[T]he magistrate shall file his proposed findings and recommendations under subparagraph (B) with the court and a copy shall forthwith be mailed to all parties.
"Within ten days after being served with a copy, any party may serve and file written objections to such proposed findings and recommendations as provided by rules of court. A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. A judge of the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate. The judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate with instructions."
Moreover, both Judge Metzner and the Judicial Conference were of the opinion that Congress could probably vest magistrates with the authority to make a final decision on dispositive motions without violating Article III, and that the language of § 636(b)(1)(B), calling for the magistrate to make only recommendations on dispositive motions, was adopted out of an abundance of caution. See Senate Hearings, at 6 (statement of Judge Metzner); id., at 35 (report of Judicial Conference of the United States). While we express no view on the accuracy of those opinions, we think they are relevant to Congress' intent. See also House Report, at 8 ("it is not feasible for every judicial act, at every stage of the proceeding, to be performed by `a judge of the court' ").
"The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."