Who is a Special Master in a Law Court?

With questions like who is a special master in a law court including other officers in that environment, it is certain that you have a desire to know and to equip yourself with just the right system of information. A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law.

The system of courts that interprets and applies the law is collectively known as the judiciary. The place where a court sits is known as a venue. The room where court proceedings occur is known as a courtroom, and the building as a courthouse; court facilities range from simple and very small facilities in rural communities to large complex facilities in urban communities.

A court is for civil wrongs. It is constituted by a minimum of three parties: the plaintiff, who complains of an injury done; the defendant, who is called upon to make satisfaction for it; and the judicial power, who is to examine the truth of the fact, determine the law arising upon that fact, and, if any injury appears to have been done, ascertain and by its officers apply a legal remedy.

It is also usual in the superior courts to have barristers, and attorneys or counsel, as assistants, though, often, courts consist of additional barristers, bailiffs, reporters, and perhaps a jury.

Special Master

The special master is someone who serves a limited purpose for the court to do things the parties want it to do, to make some difficult findings of facts, or do things that would be impractical for a judge to do or administer.

Special masters can play vital roles in the litigation process, whether it be in assisting with aspects of discovery, the awarding of damages, or any other area of litigation where it might be difficult for a court to case-manage a complex issue on its own. However, a problem arises when special masters go beyond their limited scope of power, and in determining how courts and litigants can and should sanction that behavior.

Roles and Responsibilities of Special Master

The role of the special master, who is frequently but not necessarily an attorney, is to supervise those falling under the order of the court to ensure that the court order is being followed and to report on the activities of the entity being supervised in a timely matter to the judge or the judge’s designated representatives.

Special masters have been controversial in some cases, and are cited by critics as an example of judicial overreach.

For example, special masters have at times ordered the expenditure of funds over and above the amount appropriated by a legislative body for the remediation of the situation being examined. Their powers have generally been found to be valid and their remedies upheld by US courts.

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The US Supreme Court will normally assign original jurisdiction disputes (cases such as disputes between states that are first heard at the Supreme Court level) to a special master to conduct what amounts to a trial: the taking of evidence and a ruling.

The Supreme Court can then assess the master’s ruling much as a normal appeals court would, rather than conduct the trial itself. That is necessary as trials in the US almost always involve live testimony, and it would be too unwieldy for nine justices to rule on evidentiary objections in real time.

In United States federal courts, special masters are appointed under Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 53 allows for a special master to be appointed only if one of the following exists:

  • the parties consent to the appointment
  • to hold a trial without a jury or make recommended findings of fact where there is some exceptional condition or accounting or difficult computation of damages
  • address pre-trial or post-trial matters that cannot be effectively and timely addressed by a judge or magistrate judge.

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