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Writ of Mandamus

Under Florida law, the term "mandamus" is defined as a remedy to command performance of a ministerial act that the person deprived has a right to demand, or a remedy where public officials or agencies may be coerced to perform ministerial duties that they have a clear legal duty to perform. A duty or act is defined as ministerial when there is no room for the exercise of discretion, and the performance being required is directed by law.

The writ of mandamus is intended to accomplish certain limited functions and not to redress every grievance or disagreement. Relief is available only where the pleader asserts a clear legal right to the performance of a clear legal duty by a public officer and that he has no other legal remedies available to him.

In order for a court to issue a writ of mandamus, a person bringing the petition must establish that he has a clear legal right to the performance of a clear legal duty by a public officer and that he has no other legal remedies available to him.

Attorney for Writ of Mandamus in Florida

If your case involves the filing of a writ of mandamus, then contact an experienced criminal appellate attorney in Florida at the Sammis Law Firm. We have offices conveniently located in downtown Tampa, FL, and in New Port Richey, FL.

We can help you file a petition for a writ of mandamus or defend against such an action depending on the circumstances. We fight cases throughout the State of Florida. We are experienced in a wide variety of appellate issues including filing direct appeals, post-conviction motions, petitions for writ of certiorari, petitions for writ of mandamus, and petitions for habeas corpus when a person is being illegally detained.

Contact us for a free consultation. Call 813-250-0500.


Limitations of the Writ of Mandamus

It is well-settled under Florida law that mandamus:

  • cannot be used to seek review of an allegedly erroneous decision by another court;
  • cannot be used to mandate the doing or undoing of a discretionary act;
  • cannot be used to control or direct the manner in which another court shall act in the lawful exercise of its jurisdiction;
  • cannot be used to direct the manner in which the lower court should act, although it may be used to compel a lower court to act in the exercise of its lawful jurisdiction; and
  • cannot be used to circumvent the constitutional restrictions on the Florida Supreme Court's jurisdiction to review certain types of district court of appeal decisions by extraordinary writ.

Requirements for the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus

Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.110(b)(2) requires that a pleading contain, “a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Id. The initial pleading seeking a writ of mandamus “shall be a complaint.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.630(b).

The complaint should contain “a short and plain statement of the ultimate facts showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” as required by rule 1.110(b)(2), Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. The absence of discreet averments of fact (dates, incidents), numbered or otherwise, precludes the individual responses (admit, deny, or statement that Department is “without knowledge”) required for an answer under rule 1.110(c), Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.

The complaint should contain an appropriate “demand for judgment for the relief to which the pleader deems himself or herself entitled.” Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.110(b)(3).


Initial Task When Assessing the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus

When a trial court receives a petition for a writ of mandamus, its initial task is assessing the petition to determine whether it is facially sufficient. Holcomb. v. Dep't of Corr., 609 So.2d 751 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992). If it is not facially sufficient, the court may dismiss the petition. Id.

If the petition states a legally sufficient claim, the court must issue an “alternative writ in mandamus” ordering the respondent to show cause why the writ should not be granted. Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.630(d)(3).


After a Show Cause Order is Issued

Once a show cause order has been issued by the court, it becomes in all respects the complaint and subject to the same rules of pleading as are any other complaints. West Palm Beach v. Knuutila, 183 So.2d 881 (Fla. 4th DCA1966); Fla.R.Civ.Pro. 1.630(e). It is then up to the respondent to admit or deny the factual allegations upon which relief is based and to present any and all affirmative defenses.

All facts alleged in the order to show cause, which generally incorporates by reference the original petition, that are not specifically denied are admitted to be true. Arnold v. State ex rel. Mallison, 147 Fla. 324, 2 So.2d 874 (1941).


Material Issues of Fact in Dispute

If the respondent raises material issues of fact, a trial to resolve such disputes is appropriate. Bal Harbour Village v. State ex rel. Giblin, 299 So.2d 611, 615 (Fla. 3d DCA1974), cert. denied, 311 So.2d 670 (Fla.1975). However, the burden is on the respondent for coming “forward with exact facts upon which it refused to perform the act required by the alternative writ.” Id.

If the respondent does not meet this burden in the return, then no trial is necessary and the court can decide the issues based upon the sufficiency of the legal issues raised. Id. Once an alternative writ has issued, the burden is on the respondent to come forward with the facts it contends support its refusal to perform its legal duty. Smith v. State, 696 So.2d 814, 816 (Fla. 2d DCA 1997).


Jurisdiction of the District Court of Appeal to Issue Writs of Certiorari

Rule 9.030(b)(2) of the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure provides that the district courts of appeal shall have jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari to review (A) nonfinal orders of lower tribunals other than as prescribed in rule 9.130, and (B) final orders of circuit courts acting in their review capacity.

Final agency action is ordinarily subject to review by appeal to the appropriate district court of appeal under the provisions of section 120.68(2), Florida Statutes.


Review by Appeal for the Final Order

If mandamus is used to initiate a new civil action in the circuit court, the resulting final order is subject to review by appeal. Mandamus is an action at law, See State ex rel Mott v. Scofield, 120 So.2d 825 (Fla. 2d DCA 1960). As with other actions at law, a final judgment on a complaint for writ of mandamus is reviewable by appeal. See, e.g., Conner v. Mid-Florida Growers Inc., 541 So.2d 1252 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989).


Standard of Review for a Writ of Mandamus

Appellate courts have generally allowed direct review of an order dismissing a complaint seeking a writ of mandamus. Because the issue of whether a complaint is sufficient to state a cause of action is a question of law, the appellate court reviews such orders under the de novo standard of review. Barnett v. Antonacci, 122 So.3d 400 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013).

In contrast to the standard for a dismissal of the complaint, orders granting or denying the writ are subject to review only for abuse of discretion. Rosado v. State, 1 So.3d 1147 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009).


Compelling the Performance of Ministerial Duties

Mandamus is an appropriate remedy to compel the performance of ministerial duties devolved by law on public officers. However, a mandamus will not lie where continued judicial supervision is required.

Mandamus is defined as a remedy to command performance of a ministerial act that the person deprived has a right to demand, or a remedy where public officials or agencies may be coerced to perform ministerial duties that they have a clear legal duty to perform. City of Coral Gables v. State ex rel. Worley, 44 So.2d 298 (Fla.1950).

A duty or act is defined as ministerial when there is no room for the exercise of discretion, and the performance being required is directed by law. Solomon v. Sanitarians' Registration Bd., 155 So.2d 353 (Fla.1963).

Mandamus, however, will not lie to prevent a future harm. Daniels v. Bryson, 548 So.2d 679 (Fla. 3d DCA 1989). In Daniels the court held:

Injunctive relief would be appropriate, we believe, where there is a demonstrated pattern of noncompliance with the Public Records Law, together with a showing of likelihood of future violations. Mandamus would not be an adequate remedy, as the writ will not lie to prevent future harm. State ex rel. Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Orlando, 269 So.2d 402 (Fla. 4th DCA 1972).

548 So.2d at 680-81.


This article was last updated on Friday, August 10, 2018.