The appointment of a special master to be involved in the proceedings following the search of former President Trump’s home has drawn attention to the use of special masters. Special masters have been used by the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, in civil matters for well over 50 years. This article emphasizes the need for special masters in complex civil litigation and in certain areas of the criminal law. The author of this article often serves as a special master.
There were very few special masters appointed 10 years ago. The increased use is due to the growth of complicated civil practice in both state and federal courts. Special masters are appointed to reduce the judge’s actual in-court time dealing with numerous pretrial and post-trial issues. Most recently, the federal district court judges of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania informally decided to explore the use of special masters.