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Federal judges increasingly tap special masters to handle pretrial morass in complex cases

Posted Sep 30, 2013 1:27 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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It’s not just law firms that are outsourcing some of their work. Overburdened federal judges are increasingly appointing special masters to help with the pretrial work in complex cases.

The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) has a story on the trend. Though there is “scant” data on the exact number of special masters, lawyers and judges say they are often used in multijurisdictional litigation and in high-stakes patent cases, the story says.

Hourly pay for a special master can range from $300 to $1,000 an hour, the article says. The litigants pick up the bill, hoping that the special master will keep the litigation moving forward.

James Stanton, a former Texas judge, earns $595 an hour as special master in a case involving hip-replacement devices. According to the story, he “hounds attorneys to schedule depositions, ghostwrites some rulings for the judge and handles tasks as small as circulating lunch menus in advance of meetings.”

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