Writ of Prohibition in Missouri

The Missouri Supreme Court Rules characterize the writs of prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto and habeas corpus as “extraordinary remedies.” They involve unusual procedures and usually revolve around urgent issues that cannot be addressed through typical legal channels. An order/writ of prohibition, for instance, is an order by a higher court to a lower court, agency or public official to stop them from exceeding their authority/jurisdiction.
Prohibition is an extraordinary remedy to be used with great caution and forbearance and only in cases of extreme necessity. State ex rel. Douglas Toyota III, Inc. v. Keeter, 804 S.W.2d 750, 752 (Mo. 1991). The decision to issue a Prohibition writ is in a court’s discretion. State ex rel. Washington Univ. v. Richardson, 396 S.W.3d 387, 391 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013). A court may issue a writ of prohibition when the facts and circumstances of the case demonstrate unequivocally that an extreme necessity for preventive action exists. Id. Prohibition cannot be used as a substitute for an appeal. Keeter, 804 S.W.2d at 752. There are three general situations where prohibition is appropriate:  (1) a judicial or quasi-judicial body lacks personal jurisdiction over a party or lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter it is asked to adjudicate; (2) a lower tribunal lacks the power to act as contemplated; and (3) a litigant may suffer irreparable harm or where an important question of law decided erroneously would otherwise escape review on appeal and the aggrieved party may suffer considerable hardship and expense as a consequence of the erroneous decision. Id.
Be aware that these are general categories. Courts have applied prohibition in other areas that do not always fall neatly under these headings.  See State ex rel. Ford Motor Co. v. Messina, 71 S.W.3d 602, 607 (Mo. 2002) (prohibition is the proper remedy for an abuse of discretion during discovery); State ex rel. Police Ret. Sys. of St. Louis v. Mummert, 875 S.W.2d 553,555 (Mo. 1994) (prohibition may be appropriate to prevent unnecessary, inconvenient and expensive litigation).
Based on experience, it is quite rare for a writ of prohibition to be granted. The success rate is extremely low. As such, careful care and attention needs to be given before dedicating time and resources to a writ application.

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