Writ of Mandamus, Explained
A writ of mandamus is a civil action lawsuit that seeks to compel a government entity to act in a specific instance. It doesn’t mean you’ll win your case, but it does imply the agency must follow the law’s requirements. A lawsuit can be launched for non-immigrant or green card applications that have been handled incorrectly or denied, as well as citizenship and adjustment of status applications that have been treated similarly. You must establish that you have examined all other options when filing a petition for a writ of mandamus.
A writ of mandamus is not the same as an appeal. It requests that the higher court order the lower court to rule on a specific issue, but it does not instruct the judge on how to rule. In an appeal, you would ask the higher court to rule that the trial court made a mistake during the trial, such as admitting evidence improperly or giving incorrect jury instructions.
When Can One File a Writ of Mandamus?
The filing of a writ of mandamus has no time limit. A petition for a writ of mandamus, on the other hand, may be dismissed if you file it too late.
When filing a petition for a writ of mandamus, you must comply with Florida Rule of Appellate Procedure 9.100. You must show all of the following:
- That you have a clear right to relief
- That there is an undisputed duty on the lower court
- That there is no adequate remedy at law
- That you asked the lower court to act first
- To compel the lower court to rule on a motion, such as a post-conviction motion, that was filed a long time ago, and no action was taken.
- To compel a lower court to decide a case that was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction in error.
- To compel the release of records after a public records request was made.
- To compel a court-appointed lawyer or public defender to provide information to you.
- To compel the Department of Corrections to award you credit for time served.
Writ of Mandamus Elements
If you want to succeed in a mandamus action, you must be able to establish three elements:
- The plaintiff has a clear right to the requested relief;
- The agency has a clear duty to perform the act at issue; and
- There are no other available adequate remedies.
Outcomes of Writs of Mandamus
A writ of mandamus lawsuit filed in response to an unjustified delay could have a variety of outcomes.
Filing a writ of mandamus frequently serves as a stern nudge to DHS. DHS may decide to adjudicate your application and avoid the case entirely once the lawsuit is filed. The matter is closed if DHS decides before it has to respond to the lawsuit.
In other cases, DHS will pursue the writ of mandamus in court. DHS has 60 days to reply to the suit by submitting an answer or petition to dismiss. If you become disqualified for the desired benefit as a result of the government’s unreasonable delay, the action may be dismissed by a federal district court. If the judge finds that DHS took an undue amount of time to decide your application, the judge will order USCIS to make a decision in your case as soon as possible, usually within a certain timeframe. A writ of mandamus should ideally encourage DHS and USCIS to approve your pending immigration application as soon as possible. However, there’s a danger that filing a writ of mandamus will result in your application being denied quickly.
While a writ of mandamus does not guarantee that your application will be successful, it can provide you with peace of mind by ending a long and indefinite period of waiting.
Writ of Mandamus Limitations
Only certain situations allow for the filing of a writ of mandamus. It can’t be used for any of the following:
- Request that an incorrect lower court decision be reviewed by an appellate court.
- Order the lower court to take any action that is discretionary.
- Control the actions of a lower court.
- Avoiding the limitations imposed by the Florida constitution on the use of a writ of mandamus.