Frequently Asked Questions

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Find answers regarding Court-Appointed Neutrals ("Neutrals") and Special Masters

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  • What is a Court Neutral (or Special Master)?
    A Neutral is a judicial adjunct assigned to oversee various aspects of a litigation matter and assist the Judge with resolving specific issues. When appointed under FRCP Rule 53, they are referred to as "Masters" or "Special Masters".
  • What is the difference between a Neutral and a Special Master?
    These are two terms that relate to the same role—the Academy of Court-Appointed Neutrals (ACAN) voted in summer 2022 to change its name from the Academy of Court-Appointed Masters to the Academy of Court-Appointed Neutrals for a multitude of reasons, including:

    • "Neutral" better defines and serves the profession
    • "Master" has multiple positive and negative connotations, and some states have already begun to remove this term from their lexicons
    • "Neutral" describes the multiple roles that an individual may be asked to fulfill--expert, mediator, facilitator, investigator, advisor, and many others.

    For additional information, see ACAN's article.
  • What is a Digital Forensic Neutral?
    A Digital Forensic Neutral, more commonly called Forensic Neutral, is a person with extensive experience and training related to the forensic collection, preservation and analysis of electronically stored information ("ESI"). They are usually appointed by a Court or mutually selected by the parties to assist with resolving complex issues. A few examples of the work that a Digital Forensic Neutral may perform are:

    • Assist with drafting digital forensic protocols
    • Ensure compliance with digital forensic protocols
    • Forensically collect and preserve digital evidence
    • Forensically analyze digital evidence as directed by the Court or agreed-upon protocol
    • Perform forensic remediation, such as forensic deletion of data from systems, pursuant to a Court order or settlement agreement
    • Retain evidence for a period of time based on a Court order or settlement agreement
  • How is a Neutral (or Special Master) designated?
    A Neutral is appointed by the judge to oversee various aspects of a litigation matter. Judges usually accept recommendations from the parties for consideration.
  • Who pays for the Neutral (or Special Master)?
    The fee for a Neutral is usually split equally between the parties. The fee arrangement is documented in the Appointment Order issued by the Judge.
  • Where do I find samples of orders for the appointment of a Neutral (or Special Master)?
    A general draft order with wording to address most Neutral appointments can be found here.

    Additional sample orders can be found on the Academy of Court-Appointed Neutrals' website here.