Definition of writ of prohibition
A writ of prohibition, in the United States, is an official legal document drafted and issued by a supreme court or superior court to a judge presiding over a suit in an inferior court. The writ of prohibition mandates the inferior court to cease any action over the case because it may not fall within that inferior court's jurisdiction. The document is also issued at times when it is deemed that an inferior court is acting outside the normal rules and procedures in the examination of a case. In another instance, the document is issued at times when an inferior court is deemed headed towards defeating a legal right.
In criminal proceedings, a defendant who has been committed for trial may petition to the superior court for a writ of prohibition, in this case on the ground that his conduct, even if proven, does not constitute the offense charged.
Prohibition is generally limited to appellate courts. Most often, these courts issue writs of prohibition to prevent lower courts from exceeding their jurisdiction. In some cases, this writ may also be used to prevent an inferior court from acting contrary to the rules of natural justice. The writ of prohibition may not be used to undo any previous acts, but only to prohibit acts not completed.
"Thus it was held that notwithstanding the right to an appeal, if the situation disclosed be such that to take the ordinary course by appeal would of itself subject the complainant to irreparable loss, the writ should issue notwithstanding no objection was made below; that the matter of judicial courtesy should yield to substantial personal rights of litigants, such as a sacrifice of their liberty." See "Extraordinary Legal Remedies" by Forrest G. Ferris, 1926 edition. See also Hargis v Parker 27 Kentucky L.Rep 441, 85 s.w. 704,69 L.R.A. 270.
Prohibition is similar to certiorari, as both types of writs allow superior courts to manage inferior courts. However, unlike a writ of prohibition, superior courts issue writs of certiorari to review decisions which inferior courts have already made.
Prohibition and certiorari lie only against judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. They do not lie against public authority in an executive or administrative capacity nor a legislative body.
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