A Special Magistrate, also sometimes referred to as a Special Master (though the term Special Master was retired by the Florida Supreme Court in 2004) is a member of the Florida Bar appointed by the court to perform a particular service in a civil (State or Federal) or family law matter other than those involving injunctions for protection against domestic, repeat, dating, sexual violence, and stalking. The parties must consent to the referral of the case or issue to a Special Magistrate, the court cannot require the parties to go to a Special Magistrate.
Special Magistrates perform a wide variety of tasks depending on the case they’ve been assigned to. While not a judge, the Special Magistrate is granted statutory authority to preside over and rule on a case. Some of their duties may include:
When a Special Magistrate is hearing your case, you can expect it to proceed the same way many other cases would in court subject to the limitations in which the Court and the parties have set for the Special Magistrate. The Special Magistrate is usually required to advance hearings expeditiously to move the case along quicker than what a court is normally able to do. That is one of the benefits of appointing a Special Magistrate.
Hearings on your motion or the subject matter referred to the Special Magistrate will be set with the Special Magistrate. The Special Magistrate shall hear the parties’ legal arguments and testimony presented at the Special Magistrate hearing. The parties including any witnesses will testify under oath, and the testimony is usually recorded. The plaintiff/petitioner, respondent/defendant, and any other witnesses may also be called by the Special Magistrate to give testimony and the Special Magistrate may require the production of documents and evidence in further of his or her deliberations.
Once the evidence and arguments have been presented, the Special Magistrate will make their decision and issue a report.
The Special Magistrate’s report or ruling may be appealed to the trial court judge unless the parties have agreed otherwise. Usually, the appeal or an exception to the Special Magistrate’s report must be filed within ten (10) to twenty-one (21) days (depending on the court) of receipt of the report by the litigants so time is of the essence to consider whether to file an exception. To file an exception, a verbal recording of the proceedings is usually required which may be documented by a court reporter or through video recording at the hearing.
Special Magistrates are usually needed and suitable for the following type of cases:
Though a Special Magistrate can be an added expense in litigation, a Special Magistrate can save the parties time and money, often resolving matters and disputes more efficiently and quickly than what courts can do, due to the heavy caseload that most courts face nowadays.
Special Magistrates have more flexibility than a sitting judge or magistrate, enabling them to adjust their schedule on short notice to conduct an onsite inspection, attend a hearing, and give the parties more personalized attention. Attorneys often respect Special Magistrates as colleagues, as they thoroughly understand the complexity of litigation while remaining unbiased.
Additionally, when you’d like a case to stay discreet, using a Special Magistrate can quickly get you a verdict without having to go through the ordeal of a formal court proceeding. If you’re looking to quietly settle a divorce or a business dispute, or anything in between, then a Special Magistrate may be the right course of action for your case.
*Note some of these cases still require final court approval of a Special Magistrate’s findings.
Regina M. Campbell, Esq., is well-versed in state and federal law, as well as in business and family law matters. To read more about Regina’s experience in business and family law matters, see our About Us page. As Special Magistrate, she will provide an unbiased and objective approach to all cases and deliver fair recommendations and reports. When you have a contentious case or a complex business/family case that you want to take care of efficiently and affordably, we are here for you. To learn more about our Special Magistrate services and what we can do for your case, call us at 305.460.0145 or click here to request a consult.