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Special Master


A special master is appointed by a court to carry out some sort of action on the court’s behalf. ​A special master is generally a subordinate official appointed by a ​judge​ to make sure that ​judicial  orders​ are actually followed, or in the alternative, to hear evidence on behalf of the judge and make recommendations to the judge as to the disposition of a matter.

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.

Judges appoint special masters for many reasons, and sometimes these reasons overlap. For example, in a system where judges are usually inundated with cases, special masters may be simply appointed pre-trial in order to free the judge to spend more time on other cases. These masters are almost always attorneys. In divorce cases, a special master may  make recommendations to the judge regarding division of assets and child custody.

Special masters are a unique brand of dispute-resolver relatively unknown to many  mediators, facilitators, and public officials. A special master is appointed by a judge to oversee one or more aspects of litigation. They may be appointed pre-trial, during trial, or post-trial. Despite their relative anonymity, such masters have been credited with some of the most creative and innovative conflict resolution within the history of the U.S. legal  system. ​