Frequently Asked Questions
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)?