(Writ of) Mandamus – ‘Demand Letter” to a Defendant or Writ from a Higher Court to Compel a Lower Court, Officer, or Government Body to correct a Prior Action or Failure to Act

Writ of Mandamus:

n. [Latin “we command”] (16c) A writ issued by a court to compel performance of a particular act by a lower court or a governmental officer or body, usually to correct a prior action or failure to act.Also termed mandamus; mandate; order. Pl. mandamuses. – mandamus, vb.

    Excerpt from James L. High’s A Treatise on Extraordinary Legal Remedies:

     “The modern writ of mandamus may be defined as a command issuing from a common-law court of competent jurisdiction, in the name of the state or sovereign, directed to some corporation, officer, or inferior court, requiring the performance of a particular duty therein specified, which duty results from the official station of the party to whom the writ is directed, or from operation of law. in the specific relief which it affords, a mandamus operates much in the nature of a bill in Chancery for specific performance, the principal difference being that the latter remedy is resorted to for the redress of purely private wrongs, or the enforcement of contract rights, while the former generally has for its object the performance of obligations arising out of official station, or Specially imposed by law upon the respondent. The object of a mandamus is to prevent disorder from a failure of justice and a defect of police, and it should be granted in all cases where the law has established no specific remedy and where in justice there should be one. And the value of the matter in issue, or the degree of its importance to the public, should not be too scrupulously weighed… The writ of mandamus is of very ancient origin, so ancient indeed that its early history is involved in obscurity, and has been the cause of much curious research and of many conflicting opinions. it seems, originally, to have been one of that large class of writs or mandates, by which the sovereign of England directed the performance of any desired act by his subjects, the word ‘mandamus’ in such writs or letters missive having doubtless given rise to the present name of the writ.  These letters missive or mandates, to which the generic name mandamus was applied, were in no sense judicial writs, being merely commands issuing directly from the sovereign to the subject, without the intervention of the courts, and they have now become entirely obsolete. The term mandamus, derived from these letters missive, seems gradually to have been confined in its application to the judicial writ issued by the kings bench, which has by a steady growth developed into the present writ of mandamus.[2]

  • Alternative Mandamus (“Demand Letter”):

(1809) A writ issued upon the first application for
relief, commanding the defendant either to perform the act demanded or to appear before the court at a specified time to show cause for not performing it.”

See “Formulating a Wise Redress of Grievances (‘List of Demands’)


All material utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1]: All definitions from: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: James L. High, A Treatise on Extraordinary Legal Remedies § 2, at 5-6 (1884)


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