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Miami Bankruptcy & Criminal Attorney / Blog / Criminal Defense / What Are Special Masters, And Why Are They Appointed?

What Are Special Masters, And Why Are They Appointed?


Here in Florida, as across the nation, many people have heard a new legal term of late: special master.  Former President Trump was granted one to evaluate materials that were seized by the FBI, and that is being challenged by the U.S. Attorney General.  What’s this all about?  Are special masters used with regularity in this country, and, if so, what is their purpose? Inquiring minds want to know!

How Often are Special Masters Appointed?

While the use of special masters is not common, it is also not unheard of. In roughly three of every 1,000 cases they are requested, though the request is granted in just two of every 1,000, or about 60 percent of the time.

What is a Special Master, Anyway?

Special masters are individuals—generally attorneys or retired judges—who are assigned to assist the Court with a specific matter, generally making recommendations to a judge. They are chosen based on their expertise in a particular area, and frequently delve into time-consuming activities in order to free up the judge. They are most often used to assist in cases involving patented materials, dealing with environmental issues, relating to attorney-client privilege, or dealing with personal injury cases related to airplanes.  They attempt to help settle disputes during discovery, address issues of fact, and deal with consent decrees.  In the case currently grabbing the headlines, the judge would like a special master to review the materials that were seized and make recommendations as to issues of privilege, in addition to evaluating which, if any materials should be returned to the former president.

What’s All the Fuss About?

Attorney General Merrick Garland is appealing the judge’s decision to appoint a special master to review the Mar a Lago materials that were taken by the FBI.  Knowing that it’s not remarkable for these special masters to become involved in high profile cases, why is Mr. Garland fighting it so hard here?  There are several issues from the government’s standpoint:

  • A filter team has already assessed the materials in question and separated out items that may have issues with attorney client privilege;
  • There are a number of classified and highly classified documents in the mix;
  • The plaintiff has no possessory interest in the documents;
  • The appointment of a special master will slow down the investigation.

Understanding the Law

The questions around legal issues are never ending.  If you have concerns about special masters or any other issues related to your criminal defense, the experienced and knowledgeable Miami criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos can help.  Schedule a confidential consultation in our Miami office today.



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