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An Introduction to Special Masters: Cary Ichter, partner at Ichter Davis

Cary Ichter, partner at Ichter Davis, who has served as a Special Master in 15-20 cases, speaks with host Richard Levick of LEVICK about what it is like to serve as a Special Master. A Special Master is appointed by a court to carry out some functions on its behalf. Special Masters work on cases ranging from child custody matters to administering compensation for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and are often used as a tool for “bet the company” litigation. Cary also discusses his hardscrabble upbringing and how that prepared him for a life in the courtroom. Ichter Davis is a boutique litigation firm in Atlanta which handles commercial litigation, trust and estate disputes and family law litigation for high net worth individuals (HNWI). Listen here


Follow the podcast link to hear their full discussion, or read a segment of their conversation below.

Richard Levick:

Good day, and welcome to In House Warrior, the daily podcast to the Corporate Counsel Business Journal. I’m Richard Levick. And I’m speaking with an old friend Today, my guest is Cary Ichter. He’s a partner at Ichter Davis. Cary, you and I go back so far. Now, we were both professionals, so I’m not going to pretend there any stories from high school, but we do go back a long way. It is so good to see you. I think we were both, when we met, we must have been in our early twenties because we can’t possibly be as old as we both think that we are. So, it’s great to have you. Let’s start with if you were speaking to GCs right now, as you are on this podcast, what would be some of the most important things that they need to know about the process of a special master?


Cary Ichter:

Well, the one question we always get asked is “who pays for the special master?” And the answer to that, is that the parties pay. And then the follow on question oftentimes is “well, why would I want to add a layer of costs to litigation that is already costing me a whole lot of money?” And the answer to that is because of the level of efficiency that can be brought to the process, as a consequence of the laser-like attention that a special master can give to the case. Generally speaking, when I’m a Special Master, if there are discoveries, generally speaking, the way that that discovery works, is that you’re going to do paper discovery, you’re going to be looking for documents. This is your general commercial case, we want to see all the documents that have to do with this case. Well, one side throws up a whole bevy of objections to the document requests that you’ve made. And as in the normal course of things, that means that there are letters back and forth to each other, then there are motions, there are briefings, one side files a brief, one side files a response, the other side files a reply, then you have to have a hearing, if you’re lucky. And you’re six months, nine months into the case, before you even know what documents you’re going to start producing. And then that’s a slow process. If you have a special master, the Special Master can say, “first of all, we don’t need to have letter writing contests—call me up, tell me what the issues are, we’ll deal with it on the phone. If it’s something that merits a motion, then we’re going to get a motion. Get it to me within 10 days, give me a response to the motion within 10 days, give me a reply within five days, we’ll have a hearing five days after that.” I will have a hearing on these kinds of issues before under the standard rules, you would even have a response brief. And generally, you’re going to have a resolution before that. Oftentimes, you get it resolved in the very first phone call, where you show one side or the other, pretty clearly, which way the wind is blowing with respect to the issue. And, you know, you’re dealing with pretty smart guys. They aren’t going to want to—if you send the message that if you lose a discovery issue, you’re going to be paying the other side’s fees for that discovery issue. Generally speaking, parties don’t like to do that. And so, you can oftentimes, by bringing efficiency and bringing discipline to the process, get things done quickly, efficiently and with more attention to the issues than courts can afford to give them.