In the District of Delaware, the district court judges often refer substantive issues to the magistrate judges, even absent consent of the parties. This is one way that the judges manage the incredible load of the patent docket here.
When dealing with substantive referrals (not referrals for mediation/ADR), the Court uses an assignment system, where particular district court judges tend to refer cases and motions only to their assigned magistrate judges (with occasional exceptions).
The most recent announcement of magistrate judge assignments that I know of was made at a Federal Bar Association lunch back in September 2019:
- Magistrate Judges Thynge and Hall were assigned to Judges Stark and Judge Noreika
- Magistrate Judges Burke and Fallon were assigned to Judges Andrew and Connolly
Did the Assignments Change Last Year?
I noticed recently, though, that the magistrate judge assignments have seemed to change. A quick look at the data (via Docket Navigator) shows that Judges Connolly and Noreika more or less swapped places starting in September 2020.
It may just be that I missed an announcement, or that the Court hasn't had an opportunity to let the bar know yet.
With this change, here are the most likely magistrate judge referrals for each district judge, according to the Docket Navigator data since September:
- Chief Judge Stark refers issues to Judges Burke, Fallon, and Hall
- Judge Andrews refers issues to Judges Burke and Fallon
- Judge Connolly refers issues to Judge Hall
- Judge Noreika refers issues to Judges Burke and Fallon
Note that patent case referrals to Chief Magistrate Judge Thynge have been infrequent lately. I found no substantive referrals to Judge Thynge in 2020, at least not in patent cases on Docket Navigator.