Code of the District of Columbia

§ 11–1732. Magistrate judges.

(a) With the approval of a majority of the judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in active service and subject to standards and procedures established by the rules of the Superior Court, the chief judge of the Superior Court may appoint magistrate judges, who shall serve in the Superior Court and perform the duties enumerated in subsection (j) of this section (or, in the case of magistrate judges for the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court, the duties enumerated in section 11-1732A(d)) and such other functions incidental to these duties as are consistent with the rules of the Superior Court and the Constitution and laws of the United States and of the District of Columbia.

(b) Magistrate judges shall be selected pursuant to standards and procedures adopted by the Board of Judges. Such procedures shall contain provisions for public notice of all vacancies in magistrate judge positions and for the establishment by the Court of an advisory merit selection panel, composed of lawyer and nonlawyer residents of the District of Columbia who are not employees of the District of Columbia Courts, to assist the Board of Judges in identifying and recommending persons who are best qualified to fill such positions.

(c) Except as provided in section 11-1732A(b), no individual shall be appointed as a magistrate judge unless that individual —

(1) is a citizen of the United States;

(2) is an active member of the unified District of Columbia Bar and has been engaged in the active practice of law in the District for the five years immediately preceding the appointment or for such five years has been on the faculty of a law school in the District, or has been employed as a lawyer by the United States or District government; and

(3) is a bona fide resident of the District of Columbia and has maintained an actual place of abode in the District for at least ninety days immediately prior to appointment, and retains such residency during service as a magistrate judge, except that magistrate judges appointed prior to the effective date of this section shall not be required to be residents of the District to be eligible to be appointed to one of the initial terms under this section or to be reappointed.

(d) Magistrate judges shall be appointed for terms of four years and may be reappointed for terms of four years. Those individuals serving as magistrate judges on the effective date of this Act shall be automatically appointed for a four year term.

(e) Upon the expiration of a magistrate judge’s term, the magistrate judge may continue to perform the duties of office until a successor is appointed, or for 90 days after the date of the expiration of the hearing commissioner’s term, whichever is earlier.

(f) No individual may serve as a magistrate judge under this section after having attained the age of seventy-four.

(g) The Board of Judges may suspend, involuntarily retire, or remove a magistrate judge, during the term for which the magistrate judge is appointed, only for incompetence, misconduct, neglect of duty, or physical or mental disability. Suspension, involuntary retirement, or removal requires the concurrence of a majority of the judges in active service. Before any order of suspension, involuntary retirement, or removal shall be entered, a full specification of the charges and the opportunity to be heard shall be furnished to the magistrate judge pursuant to procedures established by rules of the Superior Court.

(h) If the Board of Judges determines that a magistrate judge position is not needed, the Board of Judges may terminate the position.

(i)(1) Magistrate judges may not engage in the practice of law, or in any other business, occupation, or employment inconsistent with the expeditious, proper, and impartial performance of their duties as officers of the court.

(2) Magistrate judges shall abide by the Canons of Judicial Ethics.

(j) A magistrate judge, when specifically designated by the chief judge of the Superior Court, and subject to the rules of the Superior Court and the right of review under subsection (k), may perform the following functions:

(1) Administer oaths and affirmations and take acknowledgements;

(2) Determine conditions of release pursuant to the provisions of Title 23 of the District of Columbia Official Code (relating to criminal procedure);

(3) Conduct preliminary examinations and initial probation revocation hearings in all criminal cases to determine if there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the accused committed it;

(4)(A) In any case brought under § 11-1101(1), (3), (10), or (11) of the District of Columbia Official Code involving the establishment or enforcement of child support, or in any case seeking to modify an existing child support order, where a magistrate judge in the Family Court of the Superior Court finds that there is an existing duty of support, the magistrate judge shall conduct a hearing on support, make findings, and enter judgment as provided by law, and in accordance with guidelines established by rule of the Superior Court, which judgment shall constitute a final order of the Superior Court.

(B) If in a case under paragraphs [paragraph ] (A), the magistrate judge finds that a duty of support exists and makes a finding that the case involves complex issues requiring judicial resolution, the magistrate judge shall establish a temporary support obligation and refer unresolved issues to a judge of the Superior Court.

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(C) In cases under subparagraphs (A) and (B) in which the magistrate judge finds that there is a duty of support and the individual owing that duty has been served or given notice of the proceeding under any applicable statute or court rule, if that individual fails to appear or otherwise respond, the magistrate judge shall enter a default order, which shall constitute a final order of the Superior Court;

(5) Subject to the rules of the Superior Court and with the consent of the parties involved, make findings and enter final orders or judgments in other uncontested or contested proceedings, in the Civil, Criminal, and Probate Divisions, and the Family Court, of the Superior Court, excluding jury trials and trials of felony cases.

(k) With respect to proceedings and hearings under paragraphs (2), (3), (4), and (5) of subsection (j) (or proceedings and hearings under section§ 11-1732A(d), in the case of magistrate judges for the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court), a review of the magistrate judge’s order or judgment, in whole or in part, may be made by a judge of the appropriate division (or, in the case of an order or judgment of a magistrate judge of the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court, by a judge of the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit) sua sponte and must be made upon a motion of one of the parties made pursuant to procedures established by rules of the Superior Court. The reviewing judge shall conduct such proceedings as required by the rules of the Superior Court. An appeal to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals may be made only after a judge of the Superior Court has reviewed the order or judgment.

(l) The Superior Court shall ensure that all magistrate judges receive training to enable them to fulfill their responsibilities (subject to the requirements of section 11-1732A(f) in the case of magistrate judges of the Family Court of the Superior Court or the Domestic Violence Unit).

(m)(1) The chief judge of the Superior Court, in consultation with the District of Columbia Bar, the City Council of the District of Columbia, and other interested parties, shall within one year of the effective date of this section, make a careful study of conditions in the Superior Court to determine —

(A) the number of appointments required to provide for the effective administration of justice;

(B) the divisions in which hearing commissioners shall serve;

(C) the appropriate functions of hearing commissioners; and

(D) the compensation of, and other personnel matters pertaining to, hearing commissioners.

Upon completion of the study, the chief judge shall report the findings of such study to the appropriate committees of the Congress.

(2) After the study required by paragraph (1), the chief judge shall, from time to time, make such studies as the Board of Judges shall deem expedient, giving consideration to suggestions of the District of Columbia Bar and other interested parties.

(n) With the concurrence of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, the Board of Judges of the Superior Court may promulgate rules, not inconsistent with the terms of this section, which are necessary for the fair and effective utilization of magistrate judges in the Superior Court.

(o) For purposes of this section, the term “Board of Judges” means the judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Any action of the Board of Judges shall require a majority vote of the sitting judges.


(Sept. 10, 1982, 96 Stat. 818, Pub. L. 97-257; July 29, 1983, 97 Stat. 301, Pub. L. 98-63, § 2; Oct. 12, 1984, 98 Stat. 1837, Pub. L. 98-473, § 101(b); Dec. 19, 1985, 99 Stat. 1224, Pub. L. 99-190, § 101(c); Oct. 28, 1986, 100 Stat. 3228, Pub. L. 99-573, § 2(a); Jan. 8, 2002, 115 Stat. 2112, Pub. L. 107-114, §§ 5(a)(1), 6(b); Dec. 14, 2016, 130 Stat. 1350, Pub. L. 114-257, § 3.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 11-1732.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 11-1732A.

Effect of Amendments

Pub. L. 107-114 substituted “Magistrate judges” for “Hearing commissioners” in the section heading; substituted “magistrate judges” for “hearing commissioners” in subsecs. (a), (b), (d), (i), (l), and (n); substituted “magistrate judge” for “hearing commissioner” in subsecs. (b), (c), (e), (f), (g), (h), and (j); substituted “magistrate judge’s” for “hearing commissioner’s” in subsecs. (e) and (k); substituted “Magistrate judges” for “Hearing commissioners” in subsecs. (b), (d), and (i); in subsec. (a), inserted “(or, in the case of magistrate judges for the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court, the duties enumerated in section 11-1732A(d))” after “the duties enumerated in subsection (j) of this section”; in subsec. (c), substituted “Except as provided in section 11-1732A(b), no individual” for “No individual”; in subsec. (k), substituted “subsection (j) (or proceedings and hearings under section 11-1732A(d), in the case of magistrate judges for the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court),” for “subsection (j),”, and inserted “(or, in the case of an order or judgment of a magistrate judge of the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit of the Superior Court, by a judge of the Family Court or the Domestic Violence Unit)” after “appropriate division”; and, in subsec. (l), inserted “(subject to the requirements of section 11-1732A(f) in the case of magistrate judges of the Family Court of the Superior Court or the Domestic Violence Unit)” after “responsibilities”.

References in Text

“The effective date of this Act,” referred to in subsection (d), is October 28, 1986. “The effective date of this section,” referred to in the introductory language of subsection (m)(1), is October 28, 1986.

Editor's Notes

In subsection (j)(4)(B) the bracketed word is set out to correct an error in Pub. Law 99-573.

Section 5(b) of Pub. L. 107-114 provided:

“(b) TRANSITION PROVISION REGARDING HEARING COMMISSIONERS.—Any individual serving as a hearing commissioner under section 11-1732 of the District of Columbia Code as of the date of the enactment of this Act Jan. 8, 2002 shall serve the remainder of such individual’s term as a magistrate judge, and may be reappointed as a magistrate judge in accordance with section 11-1732(d), District of Columbia Code, except that any individual serving as a hearing commissioner as of the date of the enactment of this Act who was appointed as a hearing commissioner prior to the effective date of section 11-1732 of the District of Columbia Code shall not be required to be a resident of the District of Columbia to be eligible to be reappointed.”

Section 6(d)(2) of Pub. L. 107-114 provided for expedited initial appointments.