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In re In re United States

Citation: 17 ELR 20663
No. No. 86-3474, 816 F.2d 1083/25 ERC 1834/(6th Cir., 04/08/1987)

The court holds that the district court abused its discretion in authorizing a special master to review and submit recommendations on motions for summary judgment and other potentially dispositive motions in a cost recovery action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. None of the justifications cited by the district court support its conclusion that this case presents "exceptional conditions" that warrant reference of nonjury cases to a special master under Rule 53(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Supreme Court has held that reference to a special master is not justified by calendar congestion, complexity of the issues, or the possibility of a lengthy trial. The district court erred in asserting that reference is justified by the public interest in the quickest feasible resolution of Superfund cases, since reference often delays resolution of cases by adding another level of review. The district court's reasoning that the extraordinary pretrial management required ina case with over 600 parties is also not persuasive, since the legal issues are the same regardless of the number of parties and complexity does not justify appointment of a special master. The court concludes that the United States is entitled to a writ of mandamus directing the district court to vacate its order authorizing the special master to issue recommendations on dispositive motions.

Counsel for Petitioner
Peter Steenland
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2774

Counsel for Respondents
William Bobulsky
1612 E. Prospect Rd., Ashtabula OH 44004
(216) 998-4214

Robert McNair
54 N. Chestnut St., Jefferson OH 44047
(216) 576-3831

Before: MERRITT and MILBURN, Circuit Judges; and PECK, Senior Circuit Judge.