The role of the Special Master (who is frequently, but not necessarily, an attorney) is to supervise those falling under the order of the court to make sure that the court order is being followed and to report on the activities of the entity being supervised in a timely matter to the judge or the judge's designated representatives.
In construction cases, the Special Master may preside over the discovery and pre-trial processes and motions in a case. The Special Master has special expertise in the engineering and construction industry as well as the legal processes involved in settling large and complex cases.
In California, a Special Master can be appointed in situations involving Home Owner Association Construction Defect cases. There is authority for the parties to agree on a Special Master through the Referee process (California Code of Civil Procedure Section 638).