Beyond appellate review, you can also petition for what are called “extraordinary writs”. These are writs by which the appellate court orders the trial court to do or not to do something. The two most common are mandamus, ordering the trial court to do something it has a mandatory duty to do, and prohibition to stop the court from doing something it has no jurisdiction to do.
The distinction between mandamus and prohibition has broken down over time such that now everyone just calls these petitions mandamus.
In federal court, the power to issue a writ comes from the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a): “The Supreme Court and all courts established by Act of Congress may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”
Examples of Situations where Mandamus is Granted
In the federal courts we no longer put the judge’s name in since it is too personal. The judge is technically a party but in most cases he does not elect to participate because the losing side is arguing for him….sometimes, though, both sides are against him as in …
Facts: VP Cheney seeks writ of mandamus to prevent discovery on Energy task force.
Procedural History: DC Circuit declines mandamus saying Cheney could assert Executive Privilege, therefore mandamus not appropriate.
S. Ct.: not a precondition for mandamus that he exert executive privilege before seeking mandamus. Requires as preconditions (1) No adequate means to get the relief sought, (2) movant shows that the right to relief is clear and indisputable, (3) the court issuing the writ must exercise its discretion and be satisfied that the writ is appropriate under the circumstances.