Special Reference Law and Legal Definition

Special reference is a court's reference of a case to a referee for decisions on specific questions of fact. For example, reference to ascertain and assess the damages the plaintiff is entitled to recover. An order of reference shall direct the referee to determine the specific issues and also specify or limit the powers of the referee and the time for the filing of his/her report and may fix a time and place for the hearing. The special referee makes a finding and reports them to the trial judge, who treats them as advisory only and not as binding decisions. For example, in New York, in matrimonial actions, only a judicial hearing officer or a special referee appointed by the chief administrator of the courts may be designated to determine an issue. In a matrimonial action the court shall not order a reference to a referee nominated by a party.[NY CLS CPLR R 4312]