April 03, 2020 Judicial Division

New Video Presentations Available as Part of the Judicial Division’s Efforts to Help Courts Make Use of Special Masters to Assist with Court Needs

By Merril Hirsh, Washington, DC

Two new Judicial Division videos are available to judges, court staff and stakeholders to help courts make more effective use of special masters. 

First, on March 10, 2020, Lawyers Conference Special Masters Committee Members Texas A&M Professor (and former Dispute Resolution Section Chair) Nancy Welsh and Special Masters Committee Co-Chair Merril Hirsh had planned a live presentation on the ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Use of Special Masters in Federal and State Court Civil Litigation to an audience assembled for an Ohio Supreme Court CLE program at Ohio State University.  But when the program was cancelled that morning, Catherine Geyer, the program organizer for the Court, arranged to video the one-hour program, A Tool to Help Courts: Special Masers, now available to view.  

The Guidelines were drafted by a working group assembled by the Judicial Division of representatives across numerous Sections of the ABA, then co-sponsored by those sections and approved by the House of Delegates over no apparent opposition at the ABA Midyear Meeting in January 2019.  The Guidelines reflect new thinking on how special masters can be a flexible tool to assist courts in many ways.   The program discusses the philosophy that animates the Guidelines, and provides concrete information on how and when special masters can be used, and methods of selecting, vetting, training, overseeing and evaluating special masters.  It also reports on the ongoing work of the Special Masters Committee to provide outreach and assistance to courts, and to draft potential model rules, ethical guidelines and support material (including criteria that can be used to select special masters to a roster and a tool for evaluating and improving the work special masters do).

Then, on May 28, 2020, Mr. Hirsh moderated a 90-minute webinar with speakers Justice David Thomson of the New Mexico Supreme Court, Judge Heather Welch (Chair of the National Conference of State Trial Judges and Presiding Judge of the Marion County, Indiana Superior Court), retired Southern District of New York Judge Shira Scheindlin and former Academy of Court Appointed Masters President Cary Ichter entitled A Brainstorming Session: Using Special Masters To Help Courts Deal with the Challenges of the Pandemic.  This program addressed practical issues courts are facing from the pandemic, ways in which special masters might be used to address those issues, and resources available to assist those efforts.

The brainstorming session was part of a larger effort organized by JD Chair Justice Elizabeth Lang-Miers, Chair-Elect Judge J. Michelle Childs and Vice-Chair Christopher Browning to develop resources for courts interested in making use of special masters to deal with the pandemic.  Anyone interested in additional resources or information can contact Merril Hirsh.

Merril Hirsh

2019-2020 Chair

Lawyers Conference Special Masters Committee