Definition of prerogative writ
Prerogative writs are a class of writs which originate from English law. Originally they were available only to the Crown, but later they were made available to the king's subjects through the courts.
The prerogative writs are:
England and Wales
The prerogative writs are a means by which the Crown, acting through its courts, effects control over inferior courts or public authorities throughout the kingdom. The writs are issued in the name of the Crown, who is the nominal plaintiff, on behalf of the applicant.
The prerogative writs other than habeas corpus are discretionary remedies, and have been known as prerogative orders in England and Wales since 1938. The writs of quo warranto and procedendo are now obsolete, and the orders of certiorari, mandamus and prohibition are under the new Civil Procedure Rules 1998 known as "quashing orders," "mandatory orders" and "prohibiting orders" respectively.
The writ of habeas corpus is still known by that name.
In the United States federal court system, the issuance of writs is authorised by U.S. Code, Title 28, Section 1651. The language of the statute was left deliberately vague in order to allow the courts flexibility in determining what writs are necessary "in aid of their jurisdiction". Use of writs at the trial court level has been greatly curtailed by the adoption of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and its state court counterparts, which specify that there is "one form of action".
Nevertheless, the prudent litigator should familiarize himself or herself with the availability of writs in the jurisdiction in which he or she is admitted to practice.
Quo warranto and procedendo are largely obsolete.
Habeas corpus still exists, of course, but its availability has been narrowed over the years at both federal and state levels.
The Supreme Court of the United States grants certiorari, while most state supreme courts grant review.
Mandamus has been replaced in the United States district courts and many state trial courts by injunction. In the federal system, it is generally available only to the federal courts of appeals, which issue writs of mandamus to lower courts and administrative hearing panels, while some state systems still allow trial courts to issue writs of mandamus or mandate directly to government officials.
Prohibition is also generally limited to appellate courts, who use it to prevent lower courts from exceeding their jurisdiction.
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