California Code of Civil Procedure Section 639 - Interpretation
In De Guere v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (1997) 56 Cal. App. 4th 482, the court analyzed the reference provisions and cases in some detail.
It noted that a reference for an accounting under Code of Civil Procedure section 639, subdivision (a) is based on the rationale that "the reference is allowed because a trained accountant is generally better able to efficiently and inexpensively examine a 'long account' than a trial court judge is able to do through adversarial court proceedings.
The tension in this area is over how much latitude the accountant referee may exercise in making factual determinations.
It does not matter that a particular referee has legal training. the scope of the reference is set by the constitutional limitations on delegation of judicial power to a referee.
To do a proper examination of a long account, a referee needs to know two things--each of which is within the proper ambit of his or her authority.
First, the referee must know the proper accounting methodology to be applied.
Second, the referee must have the accounting records at issue.
The parties must obtain the necessary records though discovery to enable the referee to perform the examination." (DeGuere, at p. 499.)