Due to the current court budget crisis, the courts are routinely turning to "special masters" and "discovery referees" (as permitted under California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) sections 635 through 645.2) to handle some legal matters and complicated, administrative issues. This can be cost and time effective, especially if the case involves several different issues, multiple parties, and large amount of documents. The discovery referee and special master actively and closely manage the case by coordinating discovery and resolving discovery disputes, so settlement discussions can be productive.
A special master serves as an extension of the court, so they may marshall any evidence, almost like a receiver. A discovery referee usually engages in discovery matters, but also may try parts of a case and create findings of fact or law that become public record.
The parties are encouraged to agree to a mutually acceptable neutral to serve as a referee, usually a former judge or well respected practitioner with a desired expertise. If they cannot agree on a referee, the court will request the parties submit a list of names so the court can assist in the selection process.
The parties mutually agree, usually on a former judge, to serve as a Judge Pro Tem in a private trial. The parties can agree the verdict will be binding or non binding, as well as who the triers of fact will be, either a jury or the judge. The parties may hire jurors utilizing a local jury research company; Judicate West can assist with these arrangements. The judge can also be the trier of fact similar to a bench trial and the outcome when utilizing a Judge Pro Tem can be appealable.