Mandamus Definition and Legal Meaning
On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Mandamus, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.
What is Mandamus?
(n) Mandamus is the writ directing a government body, office, agency or authority to adhere to the requirements of the legal provisions which they are bound to follow. Eg. Non-declaring the election schedules when the present term is completed.
History and Meaning of Mandamus
Mandamus is a Latin word that means "we command." It is a type of writ, which is a written order from a court instructing a government agency or official to take a particular action. The writ of mandamus is one of the oldest writs used in English law, and it has been used in American law since colonial times.
A writ of mandamus is typically used when an individual or group wants to compel a government agency or official to perform a legal duty that they are unwilling or unable to perform. For example, if a government agency is required by law to provide certain information to the public but refuses to do so, a writ of mandamus could be used to compel the agency to comply with the law.
Examples of Mandamus
A writ of mandamus was used to compel the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lift restrictions on media ownership. The court ruled that the FCC was required by law to review its media ownership rules every four years and had failed to do so.
In California, a writ of mandamus was used to compel the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to process drivers' license applications in a timely manner. The court ruled that the DMV was obligated by law to process applications within a certain time frame and had failed to do so.
In Texas, a writ of mandamus was used to compel a county clerk to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The court ruled that the clerk was required by law to issue marriage licenses to all eligible couples and could not refuse based on personal beliefs.
Legal Terms Similar to Mandamus
- Injunction - A court order that requires an individual or entity to stop doing something or to take a particular action.
- Habeas Corpus - A writ that requires a person being detained to be brought before a court or judge to determine the legality of their detention.
- Certiorari - A writ that allows a higher court to review a lower court's decision.