The Daily Journal | California Lawyer
Mastering Complex Cases: Effective Use of Special Masters in Complex Civil Cases
December 4, 2020
By Daniel B. Garrie & Hon. Gail Andler
Complex cases often require intensive judicial management. The “complexity“ could be a result of many factors. Such factors could include geographically dispersed opposing parties, complex subject matters, extensive discovery needs, etc. A lack of proper judicial management could cause these cases to place unnecessary burdens on the Court or the litigants, raise costs, and cause preventable delays in the decision-making process.
Rule 3.400 of the California Rule of Court sets forth the most common features of civil cases which may be designated as “complex.” One such attribute is “a substantial amount of documentary evidence.” Another is “numerous pretrial motions raising difficult or novel issues that will be time-consuming to resolve.” As such, it is becoming increasingly common for counsel to stipulate to, and courts to appoint, special masters to assist in the management of complex civil cases. Special masters may support the court by streamlining pretrial discovery and other aspects of the case to avoid placing unnecessary burdens on the court and promoting efficient and cost-effective proceedings. The parties also benefit from the special master, as most counsel find it is easier to have access to the special master, who can convene informal telephone conferences with counsel to explore issues and suggest solutions as an alternative to the more costly and lengthier process of briefing followed by motion hearings and reports. Special masters generally have more flexibility in their schedules to accommodate the schedules and needs of counsel.
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