The Writ as a Legal Document

A writ is a legal document written by a judge or other body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction, such as a court. The writ orders the person or entity to whom it is addressed to perform or cease performing a specified action. They are often issued after a judgment has been made and give the people involved in the suit the ability to carry out the judgment, such as a writ of execution.

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—commonly known as a search warrant. Other warrants include an arrest warrant for an individual or individuals and an execution warrant allowing the execution of an individual who has been sentenced to death in a trial court.

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 the relief that used to be available only through a writ is now accessible through a lawsuit or a motion in a civil action.

Example of a Writ

For example, a writ of habeas corpus 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.