Guilty Pleas by Magistrate Judges

United States v. Harden | 13-1323

August 2014

In United States v. Harden, No. 13-1323, the Seventh Circuit found under the Federal Magistrates Act, 28 U.S.C. §636, that federal magistrates cannot accept Rule 11 guilty pleas to felonies. The Court was not persuaded by the fact that the defendant had waived this precise issue during the plea colloquy itself. The Seventh Circuit would have no concern if the magistrate judge conducted a Rule 11(b) colloquy and then prepared a report and recommendation. Harden adds to a circuit split as other circuits (Fourth, Tenth, and Eleventh) allow magistrate judges to accept felony guilty pleas with the parties’ consent.