Automatic Referral to a Magistrate Judge
Certain Civil and Criminal cases upon filing are automatically referred to a magistrate judge for specified pretrial proceedings and/or trial. See Local Rule 73.02.
Consensual Assignment to a Magistrate Judge
In accordance with the provisions of Title 28, U.S. Code, Section 636 (c), upon the consent of all parties in a civil case, a magistrate judge may be referred a civil case to conduct any or all proceedings including a jury or bench trial, and order the entry of final judgment. Under some circumstances, with the consent of the parties, a felony criminal case may be referred to a magistrate judge for acceptance of a guilty plea only.
Your decision to consent, or not to consent, to the referral of your case to a magistrate judge under this Section must be entirely voluntary. Only if all the parties to the case consent to the reference to a magistrate judge will either the district judge or the magistrate judge be informed of your decision.
An appeal from a judgment entered by a magistrate judge is taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the same manner as an appeal from a judgment entered by a district judge.