Writ

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Writ is an archiac legal term used to refer to a subclass of court orders normally directed at government officials.

  • A writ of execution is a court ordered direction to the Sheriff or a similar official to seize property or otherwise carry out a court order.
  • A writ of garnishment is a court order directing someone to pay a debt (such as a debt for wages due or amounts owed on demand in a bank account) to a creditor of the person to whom such debt would be ordinarily payable.
  • A writ of mandamus is a court ordered direction to a government official to carry out a non-discretionary official act.
  • A writ of prohibition is a court ordered direction to a government official to cease engaging in certain conduct.
  • A writ of Certiorari is a direct issued to a lower court informing it that its decision will be reviewed. It differs from a writ of mandamus in that it involves discretionary lower tribunal decision making, as opposed to non-directionary decision making.
  • A writ of Habeas Corpus is a court issued direction to the custodian of a person to turn that person over to the court (usually for release).

The writ system is buried in the ancient Common Law and has been replaced by statute with more plain English court powers that do not hinge so greatly on the exact terminology used in naming the writ. Writs practice is important in modern jurisprudence largely because it provides a direct way to sidestep the more traditional process. In State Courts writ practice is used mostly to allow review of lower court decisions other than final court orders (e.g. matters related to depositions and subpeonas) which would otehrwise not be subject to review by higher courts.

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