Thursday, September 1, 2022

What is a Special Master anyway?

All federal courts have the power to appoint a Special Master (or as it is known in Florida state courts Special Magistrate) to assist with reviewing and deciding discovery in contentious cases. Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the appointment of masters in federal court usually, but not always, with consent of the parties. In our state court, it is found in various procedural rules and Florida Statutes that empower judges, as well as bodies like county commissions, to obtain assistance in deciding matters. Many federal and state court judges use masters and likely more will do so in the future. Because of their substantial caseloads, many federal district judges and their assigned magistrate judges do not have sufficient time for the tasks inherent in the administration of complex, multi-party, and class action cases. Judges need to conserve and preserve their time to rule on pretrial matters and to try cases. With demanding dockets and tight court budgets, judges turn to skilled neutrals for help in getting the parties relief. These special court appointees usually come with specialized knowledge and are ordered to perform a broad or limited scope of duties such as monitoring discovery, resolving time-consuming disputes, helping with complex E-discovery problems involving electronically stored information (ESI) (typically in high-stakes cases involving employment, intellectual property, products and technology), and coordinating multi-party and multi-district litigation (MDL) cases. A Special Master can markedly reduce the burden on a judge and the court’s administrative staff. When assigned to a case, I routinely review the potentially relevant discovery in camera and provide the court with findings or recommendations regarding the legal status and factual nature of the information. Parties and lawyers recognize that the appointment of a master can save them substantial fees and costs, and can lead to a much quicker resolution of their disputes. Sophisticated parties who regularly use professional and experienced masters know how valuable we can be to expedited case handling and in getting quicker resolution. See more here--