Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, December 4, 2003


Page 3


Federal Court in Riverside to Pilot Civil Case Assignment Program


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Eastern Division of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Riverside will pilot a program in which civil cases are directly assigned to a magistrate judge for their entirety, Judge Virginia Phillips said Tuesday.

The procedure is a departure from the traditional policy of assigning magistrate judges to handle only discovery and sometimes settlement conferences in civil cases, Phillips observed.

“Now, if the parties consent, the case will be assigned to the magistrate judge for all purposes,” she stated.

Effective Jan. 1, some civil cases in the Eastern Division will be randomly assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen G. Larson for handling through trial. Phillips said the parties in those cases would be given the opportunity to either stipulate to having the magistrate judge hear the case, or to “opt out.”

While forms and procedures are still being developed, Phillips said that opportunity would come “very early in the case.”

Phillips said the pilot program for the Central District is modeled after similar programs operating in the Northern District of California and in Oregon.

The Eastern Division has jurisdiction over San Bernardino County as well as Riverside County. Two judges—Phillips and U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Timlin—are assigned there in addition to Larson.

Larson is a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and is a past president of the Inland Empire chapter of the Federal Bar Association. He earned his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in 1986, and his law degree from the University of Southern California in 1989.

He was appointed magistrate judge in September 2000.


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