Whether you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit (or another civil matter) or find yourself a defendant in a criminal case, you work within a complex court system. That includes courts at various levels, with opportunities to appeal or otherwise question decisions made by lower courts in your case.
The court system can seem frightening and overwhelming, but the fact that multiple levels exist is good. That means no judge or court is the only word on your case. If you’re involved in a case in the Sunshine State, having an experienced Florida attorney on your side is essential.
In addition to helping you build the best possible case and ensuring you understand all your options, a lawyer can help you navigate the court system. That includes filing appeals as necessary as well as handling other details, such as whether or not you should petition for various writs allowed under Florida law — including a writ of mandamus.
What Is a Writ of Mandamus and Why Does It Matter?
A writ of mandamus is a way to compel a lower court or another government official to perform certain actions. The writ must come from a higher court, and these legal remedies can only be used to compel actions that a lower court or official has a clear duty to perform.
Petitioning for a writ of mandamus is not the same thing as filing an appeal. When you file an appeal, you’re making a case for a certain decision to the higher court. The goal is to get the higher court to overturn the decision of a lower court.
When you petition for a writ of mandamus, however, you’re not arguing on behalf of a decision. You’re indicating that a lower court or another official has some obligation to perform an action, it has not done so, and you have no other remedy left other than having the higher court compel the lower court or official to act.
What Are the Rules Governing Filing a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus in Florida?
The petition for a writ of mandamus is governed by Florida rules for appellate procedures, which means you can only file such a petition in certain cases. You must also be able to demonstrate that certain factors exist.
First, you must show that you have a right to relief under the law. Second, the lower court or government official in question must have a legal duty to complete the action related to the writ of mandamus. You also must demonstrate that you don’t have any other legal remedy to pursue and that you already asked the government official or lower court to act.
In short, you can’t simply petition for a writ of mandamus because you feel wronged or think a different decision or action should have taken place. If the petition doesn’t meet the requirements above, it is likely to be denied.
When Might You Petition for a Writ of Mandamus?
While the writ of mandamus is a limited tool that applies in specific scenarios, it can be a powerful one in civil or criminal cases. One of the reasons it’s so powerful is that if you win the petition, the lower court or government entity is compelled to complete the action. Here are a few times you might consider petitioning for a writ of mandamus:
- To get credit for time served. A higher court can compel the Florida Department of Corrections to credit you time served during the defense of a case. If you served time during legal proceedings, this can cut down on how much more time you have to serve if you enter into a plea agreement or are found guilty and sentenced.
- To get the lower court to rule on a motion. If you’ve filed a motion in your case that was ignored and it’s been a long time — and the court has not ruled despite you asking it to — a writ of mandamus can compel a ruling. Note that the writ does not support or argue for the type of ruling; it only compels the lower court to act.
- To get information. A writ of mandamus can compel a court-appointed attorney to provide you information or compel a court or government entity to release information after you make a public records request. Again, you must prove that the information was not provided despite you asking for it appropriately before a writ of mandamus is likely to be granted.
- To get a case decided. In some cases, a writ of mandamus works to compel a decision by the lower court if the court previously dismissed a case because it felt it didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter (but it did, in fact, have jurisdiction).
Get Help With Your Case Today
The writ of mandamus is one of many tools a lawyer can bring to your case whether you’re dealing with a criminal defense matter or a personal injury claim. The Piotrowski Law firm works closely with you to make your case. We can bring multiple legal remedies to the table and can help you navigate the complex court system to make the strongest case possible.