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California Code of Civil Procedure § 638 et seq. establishes the procedures for a Judge of the Superior Court to send out one or more issues in a case for fact finding by an individual attorney. The court uses this procedure if a particularly time consuming or technical analysis must be performed which would take substantial judicial time. By sending the case out to a "referee," the court can have an attorney with particular skills or expertise make preliminary findings the court can then use to make its final determinations in a case. The probate court in San Mateo County often uses this procedure when faced with disputed accounting issues in conservatorships, trusts, and probate administrations.

Over the years, the probate judges in San Mateo County have often turned to Charles M. Riffle to act as the referee. The court has recognized that Mr. Riffle's vast experience in preparing, and often litigating, court accountings make him an ideal choice for such appointments. Mr. Riffle usually conducts his hearings under a reference using the normal rules of evidence. He is an excellent listener and prompt decision maker. He is quite familiar with the applicable California law and usual accounting practices. Accordingly, counsel for the litigants do not have to spend significant time educating him regarding the underlying law and custom.

Mr. Riffle has also served as a referee in general civil actions, often by stipulation (agreement) of the attorneys for the parties.

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