Consenting to the Jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge

Miranda M. Du, Chief Judge

Debra Kempi, Clerk of Court

A Message from the Chief Judge of the United States District Court

I encourage all litigants and counsel to familiarize yourselves with the range of services provided by magistrate judges serving in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. With the consent of the parties, magistrate judges can handle all aspects of your case, up to and including dispositive motions, jury or bench trial, and entry of judgment.

There are good reasons to consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. Our magistrate judges have experience with nearly all types of civil matters. Because our court is very busy, agreeing to proceed before a magistrate judge often means that the case will be resolved more quickly than if the case remained before a district judge. If the case must be tried, your trial date will be more certain and less likely to be continued to accommodate a criminal jury trial. While consent is customarily given soon after a case is filed, parties may consent to have a magistrate judge preside over their case at any point in the proceedings.

Further, every magistrate judge in the District of Nevada underwent a highly competitive selection process and had years of experience before being appointed to the bench. As the biographies that follow demonstrate, they bring to our bench a variety of backgrounds, extensive experience, and strong ties to our community.

Moreover, each has been appointed, and in some cases reappointed, based on detailed, confidential feedback from the bar and the community. The District of Nevada’s magistrate judges bring thousands of hours of combined federal judicial experience to their work in our court. They are also committed to equally serve everyone who comes before our court. I therefore encourage you to consider consenting to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge in your case.

How Consent Jurisdiction Works

Pursuant to 28 USC § 626(b)(4), the parties in a civil action in federal district court have the option of consenting to have their case handled by a United States magistrate judge. Magistrate judges are appointed by the district judges of each district following a competitive merit selection process and serve for eight years. Magistrate judges may be reappointed only after a rigorous review of their work that includes community input.

With the exception of certain types of cases (including Grand Jury, Attorney Discipline and Bankruptcy Appeals), when a civil action is filed in the District of Nevada, it is randomly assigned to a district judge and a magistrate judge. The district judge decides dispositive motions and tries the case. The magistrate judge decides all non-dispositive pretrial motions and enters report and recommendations on dispositive motions if a specific motion is referred by the district judge to the magistrate judge.

At certain early stages of the litigation, notices are sent to the parties reminding them of the option of consenting to have the case handled, in its entirety, by the assigned magistrate judge.

On January 1, 2020, the court began a two-year pilot program randomly assigning social security appeals to magistrate judges for final disposition. Consent procedures are set forth in General Order 2019-8.

If all parties consent to magistrate judge jurisdiction, then the assigned magistrate judge presides over all aspects of the case—and any appeals from the magistrate judge’s rulings are made directly to the Court of Appeals—just like rulings by district judges.

Like district judges, each magistrate judge has a dedicated staff, including courtroom deputies, law clerks and judicial assistants. They are trained and ready to preside over jury trials, with the full support of applicable court personnel. Because of their diverse professional experiences before and during their service as judges, this court’s magistrate judges are well-qualified to preside over all types of civil litigation.

POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF CONSENTING TO A MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Magistrate judges in this district have much shorter backlogs of pending motions than District Judges. When parties consent to have their case handled by a magistrate judge, they can expect shorter submission times for decisions on dispositive motions. Parties can also expect trials to begin on dates set by magistrate judges. Because district judges must give priority to holding trials in criminal matters, district judges must frequently postpone scheduled civil trials. In contrast, because magistrate judges do not preside over felony criminal trials, they need not adjust their calendar to accommodate these priority trials. Decision speed and certainty as to trial dates are therefore two of the advantages of having a case handled by a magistrate judge rather than a district judge.

Further, if you consent to the jurisdiction of a magistrate judge, your case will likely proceed to trial more quickly. Civil cases assigned to magistrate judges generally move along at a quicker pace because magistrate judges’ trial dockets are generally less crowded than those of district judges. Magistrate judges may well be able to schedule trial within one year of the filing of the complaint.

Magistrate Judges Biographies

Magistrate Judge William G. Cobb

William Cobb was appointed a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Nevada on September 4, 2011 and was reappointed to a second eight year term in 2019. A native of Nevada, he attended the University of Nevada, Reno, and Lewis & Clark Law School. He served in the US Army Reserves (Captain, Air Defense Artillery). He was previously elected to the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Prior to his appointment to the federal bench, Judge Cobb was a deputy district attorney in the Washoe County District Attorney’s office. He later joined the civil litigation law firm of Erickson, Thorpe & Swainston, Ltd., where he practiced law for 33 years and was the firm’s senior and managing partner. During his career as a civil and criminal trial attorney, Judge Cobb tried approximately 50 jury trials to verdict and was elected to membership in Trial Attorneys of America. Judge Cobb was a Nevada lawyer delegate to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference (Chair, 1991). He is a former president of the Thompson Inn of Court and was honored as a Master Emeritus of the Inn. He served as a Nevada Supreme Court Settlement Judge for 14 years and was also a Judge Pro Tempore of Nevada’s “Short Trial” program. He remains a member of the State Bars of Nevada and California, the Washoe County Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the American Board of Trial Advocates.

In his capacity as the District of Nevada’s senior Magistrate Judge, he serves as the District’s representative to the Ninth Circuit Magistrate Judges Executive Board. He is chair of the State and Federal Judicial Council of Nevada.

Judge Cobb and his wife Cathy, who retired as a CPA from Eide Bailley LLP (formerly Kafoury Armstrong & Co., a firm her father founded in 1941), have four children and four grandchildren.

Judge Cobb maintains his chambers in Reno at the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse.

Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach

Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach has presided as a trial and settlement judge over hundreds of civil cases, including Employment, Personal Injury, Intellectual Property, Real Property, Contract, Civil Rights, Construction, and Business Disputes.

Judge Ferenbach graduated from Princeton University in 1969 and served in the United States Navy as a line officer from 1969 until 1973. After the Navy, Judge Ferenbach settled in Arizona where he managed a community owned water utility before beginning law school in 1977. He graduated from ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in December 1979, and began working as an associate at Lionel Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas, Nevada, in March of 1980.

Except for a six month leave of absence, during which he served as a deputy public defender with the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office in Phoenix, Arizona, Judge Ferenbach was an associate and then a litigation partner at Lionel Sawyer & Collins until his appointment to the bench. Judge Ferenbach practice over 30 years included all areas of civil practice, representing individuals, small businesses and large corporations. He tried cases to juries in state and federal court. Judge Ferenbach was the Pro Bono coordinator for his firm and regularly handled and supervised associates handling Pro Bono cases.

While practicing law, Judge Ferenbach served on the boards of Nevada Legal Services, the Nevada Law Foundation, Clark County Legal Services (now Legal aid Center of Southern Nevada), the Clark County Bar Association, The Meadows School and the State Bar of Nevada. Judge Ferenbach served as President of the County Bar in 2002 and President of the State Bar in 2010-2011.

Magistrate Judge Nancy J. Koppe

Magistrate Judge Nancy J. Koppe has been on the bench since 2013. Judge Koppe has acted as a settlement judge in hundreds of civil cases, including intellectual property, civil rights, employment, personal injury, and business disputes.

Judge Koppe is the Chair of this Court’s Criminal Local Rules Committee and Attorney Admission Fund Committee. She also serves on other committees within this Court. Judge Koppe served as Chair of the Ninth Circuit’s Magistrate Judges Education Committee from 2016 to 2017, and as a member of that committee from 2014 to 2016.

Prior to taking the bench, Judge Koppe was an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Nevada for over 12 years. Judge Koppe tried criminal cases before nearly every District Judge in this District, including child exploitation, complex white-collar matters, and gang homicide cases. Many of these trials involved forensic analysis of computers and the evidence that arose therefrom. Judge Koppe also wrote appellate briefs and argued before the Ninth Circuit, including one argument before an en banc panel. In her capacity as an Assistant United States Attorney, Judge Koppe served as the Project Safe Childhood Coordinator for the District. Judge Koppe served as a lawyer representative for the District of Nevada and as a representative from this District to the Ninth Circuit’s Lawyer Representatives Coordinating Committee. Judge Koppe also served as Vice Chair, Chair-Elect, and Chair of the Ninth Circuit’s Lawyer Representatives Coordinating Committee. Judge Koppe has served as a member of the Ninth Circuit’s Conference Executive Committee.

Before joining the United States Attorney’s Office, Judge Koppe was an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for almost eight years. In that capacity, she tried hundreds of bench and jury trials. Judge Koppe prosecuted both adults and juveniles for crimes ranging from attempted murder to sexual assault to insurance fraud.

In 2006, Judge Koppe was awarded the Department of Justice’s Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant United States Attorney. In 2011, Cornell Law School awarded Judge Koppe its Exemplary Public Service Award.

Judge Koppe received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. from Cornell Law School.

Magistrate Judge Carla Baldwin

Carla Baldwin is currently a United States Magistrate Judge in Reno, where she presides over a variety of criminal and civil matters. Prior to her elevation to the bench, Judge Baldwin gained extensive and varied trial experience in both federal criminal and complex civil law. From 2010 until to her appointment to the bench, Judge Baldwin served as an Assistant United States Attorney in the criminal division of the United States Attorney’s Office in Nevada. During her tenure as an AUSA, Judge Baldwin specialized in prosecuting crimes against children, human trafficking, complex white-collar cases, immigration, election crimes and public corruption. Judge Baldwin tried numerous jury and bench trials and argued several cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As an AUSA, Judge Baldwin served is the District of Nevada’s coordinator for the Project Safe Childhood initiative, the coordinator for the Northern Nevada Financial Crimes Task Force, the District of Nevada’s Professional Responsibility Officer, and the District’s Elections Officer.

Prior to becoming a federal prosecutor, Judge Baldwin was an associate attorney with the law firm of McDonald Carano Wilson LLP from 2005 until 2010. While at the firm, Judge Baldwin’s practice focused primarily in the areas of appellate law and complex commercial and civil litigation. As an associate, Judge Baldwin tried a four-month long complex civil jury trial and argued numerous cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Nevada Supreme Court, and various state and federal courts in Las Vegas and Reno. Prior to her time at MCW, Judge Baldwin served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Procter R. Hug, Jr. on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Honorable Peter I. Breen on the Second Judicial District Court for Washoe County, Nevada.

Judge Baldwin has been active in various legal organizations and pro bono projects. Currently, she is a Master Emeritus of the Bruce R. Thompson Inns of Court in Reno, a volunteer for the We the People program, and a member of Federal Magistrate Judge’s Association. Previously, Judge Baldwin served on the Board of Directors for Step 2, Inc., a drug and alcohol recovery center in Reno, an ASECNT mentor for Hug High School, and was an active member of the Ninth Circuit’s Pro Bono program.

Judge Baldwin received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communications with a minor in Business Administration from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1997. In 2007, Judge Baldwin was awarded the Outstanding Young Alumni award for UNR. In 2003, Judge Baldwin received her juris doctorate degree, with great distinction, from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. While in law school, Judge Baldwin raised a toddler, worked and received various academic and advocacy awards, including receiving the top grade in both her property and evidence classes. Upon graduation, she was awarded the Outstanding Student Achievement Award and inducted into both the Order of the Coif and Order of the Barristers. In 2008, Judge Baldwin was named one of McGeorge’s Top 80 Alumni in 80 years.

Magistrate Judge Brenda Weksler

Magistrate Judge Brenda Weksler joined the Court in 2019 following 16 years as a trial attorney at the Federal Public Defender Office. Prior to that, she served as a judicial law-clerk to Chief J. Kathy Hardcastle in the Eighth Judicial District Court. Judge Weksler has a wide array of litigation experience in federal court representing indigent clients charged with various federal crimes. In addition to her substantial experience with evidentiary hearings she has tried numerous bench and jury trials. She has also represented her clients in the Ninth Circuit. She taught seminars on several topics across the country, including evidentiary and procedural issues, and was the Trial Training Director for the Federal Public Defender’s Office from 2012-2019.

Born in Buenos Aires, Judge Weksler moved to Las Vegas when she was 14 and has planted strong roots in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is a member of several organizations geared to improving the practice of law and preserving access to justice, and has served on several boards, including the Clark County Bar, the Federal Bar Association, and the Federal Court Pro Bono Program.

Judge Weksler graduated from Boyd School of Law, University of Las Vegas, Nevada in 2002. She received her degree in English with a minor in Philosophy from University of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Albregts

Magistrate Judge Daniel J. Albregts was appointed to the bench effective August 5, 2019. Prior to his appointment Judge Albregts was in private practice for 26 years handling civil and criminal matters in State and Federal Court. Judge Albregts handled all types of criminal cases, including death penalty cases, large complex, multi-defendant criminal cases, and was lead counsel in some of the largest white collar criminal cases ever prosecuted in Southern Nevada. Judge Albregts was lead attorney in over 125 jury trials in state and federal court and argued cases before the Nevada Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Prior to private practice, Judge Albregts served as an Assistant Deputy Public Defender in the Federal Defender’s Office for the District of Nevada from 1990-1993, and as a Deputy Assistant Public Defender for the Colorado Public Defender’s Office from 1987-1990.

Judge Albregts served as the Lawyer Representative to the Federal District Court for the District of Nevada from 2001-2003 and 2017-2019, was Criminal Justice Act Lawyer Representative for the United States District Court, District of Nevada from 1999-2008 and 2015-2019 and a member of the National eVoucher Working Group for the Administrative Offices of the United States Courts.

Judge Albregts served on the Southern Nevada State Bar Disciplinary Committee from 1995-2004, serving as Vice Chairman from 1999-2004.

Judge Albregts received his undergraduate degree in History/Political Science in 1984 and his Juris Doctorate in 1987, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Magistrate Judge Elayna J. Youchah

Magistrate Judge Elayna Youchah was a private civil litigator for approximately 25 years after completing a clerkship with the Honorable Lawrence R. Leavitt (Ret.) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Immediately prior to joining the bench, Judge Youchah was an equity partner with Jackson Lewis, where her practice focused on labor and employment law.

During and before Judge Youchah spent many years in the civil practice of law, she has been a dedicated advocate for children through Guardian ad Litem, Court Appointed Special Advocates Office, and through the Children’s Aid Program sponsored by the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. Judge Youchah is also involved in animal rescue when time allows.

Judge Youchah graduated Order of the Coif from the University of Southern California School of Law in 1993. She graduated with distinction with a A.B from the University of Michigan in 1980 and received a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Washington in 1983. Among the positions Judge Youchah held as a social worker were Director of the Wake County Juvenile Delinquency Project in Raleigh, North Carolina, Foster Home Coordinator for Casey Family Foundation in Seattle Washington, and the social worker for one of King County (Seattle, Washington) public defender offices creating and coordinating alternative sentencing options for adjudicated juvenile offenders.