A writ of mandamus is a court order issued by a judge at a petitioner’s request compelling someone to execute a duty he is legally obligated to complete. It can also be issued when the authority of a higher court is required to order a lower court or government agency to complete a duty to uphold the law. The writ of mandamus can be used to order a task to be completed, or in other cases, it may require an activity to be ceased.

Writs of Mandamus are Powerful but Rare

Writs of mandamus are unique because they can be made without completing the judicial process, or before a case has concluded. They are powerful, but rarely used, because a petitioner must prove there are no other remedies to the situation, and that someone is suffering an injustice due to the failure to comply with the law. Judges prefer not to issue the writs unless completely necessary because of the disruption they cause to the legal process.

Types of Writs of Mandamus

An alternative mandamus is issued as the first step in the process. It commands the defendant to perform the act demanded or appear in court to explain cause for not performing it. A peremptory mandamus is issued when the defendant fails to prove sufficient reason for not performing the act in question to comply with the alternative mandamus. It is an absolute command to the defendant to do the act in question immediately. A continuing mandamus is issued to a lower public authority, requesting that it performs its required tasks to prevent a miscarriage of justice.