United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Charleston Division
WENDY WELLIN, as the Special Administrator of the Estate of Keith S. Wellin and as Trustee of the Keith S. Wellin Florida Revocable Living Trust u/a/d December 11, 2001, Plaintiff,
PETER J. WELLIN, et. al., Defendants. LARRY S. McDEVITT, as Trustee of the Wellin Family 2009 Irrevocable Trust, Plaintiff,
PETER J. WELLIN, et. al., Defendants. PETER J. WELLIN, et. al., Plaintiffs,
WENDY WELLIN, individually and as Trustee of the Keith S. Wellin Florida Revocable Living Trust u/a/d December 11, 2011, Defendant.
ORDER APPOINTING SPECIAL MASTER
DAVID C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
The court held a status conference on February 4, 2015, with counsel for all parties in the above-captioned actions. At the conference, the parties and the court addressed the appointment of a special master to conduct review of all pre-trial non-dispositive matters in these cases. It is hereby ORDERED as follows:
Rule 53(a)(1)(C) permits a district court to appoint a special master to address pretrial matters that cannot be effectively and timely addressed by an available district judge or magistrate judge of the district. Further, beyond the provisions of Rule 53, district courts have the inherent power to appoint a special master for the administration of justice “when deemed by it essential.” Trull v. Dayco Products, LLC, 178 F. App’x 247, 251 (4th Cir. 2006) (citing United States v. Connecticut, 931 F.Supp. 974, 984 (D. Conn. 1996)). The special master is “to proceed with all reasonable diligence.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 53(b)(2). In the performance of his duties, the special master shall observe the Code of Conduct for United States Judges insofar as it applies to him. Code of Judicial Conduct for United States Judges, 69 F.R.D. 273, 286 (1975). Due to the special master’s duties, the court intends the special master, and all those working for him, to be protected by judicial immunity.
The court appoints William L. Howard pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 53 to serve as a special master over all pre-trial non-dispositive matters and motions in these cases, including those currently pending before the court. After the court filed its notice of intent to appoint Judge Howard as special master, the court learned that his firm, Young Clement Rivers, had been retained to represent Nan Ramsey, a potential witness in these matters. Since then, all parties have waived this potential conflict on the condition that Judge Howard insulates himself from his firm’s involvement on behalf of Ramsey. Additionally, the court will take up any motions directly concerning Ramsey without involving the special master.
I. Duties of the Special Master
Pursuant to this order, the special master shall have all the powers set forth in Rule 53(c). He shall: “(A) regulate all proceedings; (B) take all appropriate measures to perform the assigned duties fairly and efficiently; and (C) if conducting an evidentiary hearing, exercise the appointing court’s power to compel, take, and record evidence.” The parties shall provide the special master with copies of all motion papers and other documents relevant to this dispute. The special master shall review the briefs and declarations of the parties on the pending motions and hear oral argument. The special master shall then prepare and file a report on the recommended findings and rulings for each motion with this court. The procedure for review of the special master’s recommendations is outlined below. The clerk will then enter the report or recommendation on the docket.
The special master shall supervise document discovery with respect to claims of confidentiality and privilege. When necessary, he shall make recommendations to the court regarding the determination of disputes that may arise in connection with privilege and confidentiality matters. For purposes of this review effort, the special master shall be deemed an officer of the court, such that his access will not give rise to a waiver of privilege claims.
II. Document Review Process
The special master may review all documents deemed necessary for adjudication of the matters before him. The parties will provide any assistance required or requested by the special master to facilitate the review process including producing and arranging documents in a manner that will ease the burden of review. During the course of the review process, the special master and his designee(s) shall have access to all materials to which the parties have asserted privilege claims.
III. Ex Parte Communications
Rule 53(b)(2)(B) directs the court to set forth the circumstances in which the special master may communicate ex parte with the court or a party. The special master, without notice to the parties, may communicate ex parte with the court regarding logistics, the nature of his activities, management of the litigation, and other procedural matters. The special master may communicate ex parte with any party or their counsel, as the special master deems appropriate, for the purposes of ensuring the efficient administration and management and oversight of this case, and for the purpose of mediating or negotiating a resolution of any dispute related to the case. The special master shall not communicate to the court any substantive matter the special master learns during an ex parte communication between the special master and any party.
IV. Special Master Record
Rule 53(b)(2)(C) states that the court must define “the nature of the materials to be preserved and filed as a record of the [special master’s] activities.” The special master shall maintain normal billing records of his time spent on this matter, with reasonably detailed descriptions of his activities. After reviewing the parties’ documents and hearing oral arguments, ...