A writ is a form of extraordinary judicial relief in which a Court will make an order to prevent a specific abuse or harm. This usually come against public officials — even Judges. Two of the most common writs are Prohibition and Mandamus.
Prohibition is available (1) to stop the use of judicial power when a trial court lacks authority or jurisdiction, (2) to remedy an excess of authority or abuse of discretion where the lower court lacks the power to act as intended, or (3) where a party may suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted. State ex rel. Houska v. Dickhaner, 323 S.W.3d 29, 32 (Mo. 2010). Prohibition is most often invoked in appellate courts against actions taken by a trial court.
Mandamus, on the other hand, is appropriate to enforce a pre-existing right. Mandamus itself is discretionary and there is no right to have it issued. To apply, there must exist a clear, unconditional legal right and a corresponding present, imperative, and unconditional duty in the other party. State ex rel. Otte v. Missouri State Treasurer, 182 S.W.3d 638, 641 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005). Because the obligation must be unconditional, mandamus can only be ordered to require the performance of a ministeral act. A ministerial act — as opposed to a discretionary act — is one that directs a party individual/entity in a certain way independent of what the officer may think of doing that act. Jones v. Carnahan, 965 S.W.3d 209, 213 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998).
As a general matter, writs are difficult to obtain. Moreover, they cannot be used as a substitute for a general appeal to the court of appeals.
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