DEFINITION of 'Writ'

A legal document written by a judge or other body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction, such as a court, that orders the person to whom it is addressed to perform or cease performing a specified action. Writ of habeas corpus, for example, can be used to evaluate the constitutionality of criminal convictions delivered by state courts. Another writ in current use by the U.S. federal courts is the writ of certiorari, which is issued by the Supreme Court of the United States to a lower court to review that court's judgment for legal error or when no appeal is available.

BREAKING DOWN 'Writ'

Warrants and subpoenas are common types of writs. A warrant is a writ issued by a judge or magistrate that allows a sheriff, constable or police officer to search a person or property (search warrant), arrest an individual or individuals (arrest warrant) or execute an individual who has been sentenced to death in a trial court (execution warrant). A subpoena is a writ that compels a witness to testify or compels an individual or organization to produce evidence. Certain writs have been eliminated because relief that used to be available only through a writ is now accessible through a lawsuit or a motion in a civil action.

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