FindLaw Legal Dictionary
The FindLaw Legal Dictionary -- free access to over 8260 definitions of legal terms. Search for a definition or browse our legal glossaries.
[Old English, something written]
1 : a letter that was issued in the name of the English monarch from Anglo-Saxon times to declare his grants, wishes, and commands
2 : an order or mandatory process in writing issued in the name of the sovereign or of a court or judicial officer commanding the person to whom it is directed to perform or refrain from performing a specified act NOTE: The writ was a vital official instrument in the old common law of England. A plaintiff commenced a suit at law by choosing the proper form of action and obtaining a writ appropriate to the remedy sought; its issuance forced the defendant to comply or to appear in court and defend. Writs were also in constant use for financial and political purposes of government. While the writ no longer governs civil pleading and has lost many of its applications, the extraordinary writs esp. of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, and certiorari indicate its historical importance as an instrument of judicial authority.
: a writ issued upon the failure of a previous one
: a writ commanding one to perform a mandated act or else to show cause why the act need not be performed compare peremptory writ in this entry
: a writ granted as an extraordinary remedy at the discretion of the court in its jurisdiction over officials or inferior tribunals called also prerogative writ see also certiorari, habeas corpus, mandamus, procedendo, prohibition, quo warranto compare writ of right in this entry NOTE: Extraordinary writs were originally writs exercised by royal prerogative.
: a writ issued by a court under its own seal for judicial purposes in the course of a proceeding or to enforce a judgment compare original writ in this entry
: a writ formerly used in England that issued out of chancery as the means of bringing a suit and defendant before the court compare judicial writ in this entry NOTE: The original writ was superseded by the summons in 1873.
: a writ (as of mandamus) that presents an absolute order without the alternative to show cause [a peremptory writ of prohibition] compare alternative writ in this entry
: extraordinary writ in this entry
writ of assistance
1 : a writ issued to a law officer (as a sheriff or marshal) for the enforcement of a court order or decree
: one used to enforce an order for the possession of lands
2 : a writ provided for under British rule in colonial America that authorized customs officers to search unspecified places for any smuggled goods NOTE: Many colonial courts refused to issue writs of assistance, which were a focus of bitter resentment against arbitrary searches and seizures. Opposition to such writs inspired the provision in the U.S. Constitution requiring that a search warrant describe with particularity the place and items to be searched.
writ of coram nobis
: writ of error coram nobis in this entry
writ of error
: a common-law writ directing an inferior court to remit the record of an action to the reviewing court in order that an error of law may be corrected if it exists NOTE: The writ of error has been largely abolished and superseded by the appeal.
writ of error coram nobis
: a writ calling the attention of the trial court to facts which do not appear on the record despite the exercise of reasonable diligence by the defendant and which if known and established at the time a judgment was rendered would have resulted in a different judgment [petitioned for a writ of error coram nobis on the ground that newly discovered evidence exonerated him] called also coram nobis writ of coram nobis
writ of right
1 : a common-law writ formerly used to restore property held by another to its rightful owner
2 : a writ granted as a matter of right compare extraordinary writ in this entry
Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.