Writ of mandamus

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A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary court order compelling an official to take an action in fulfillment of his duty.

For example: After assuming office in 1801, President Thomas Jefferson ordered Secretary of State James Madison not to deliver a sealed Judgeship Commission to William Marbury. William Marbury was appointed by the prior President, John Adams, shorty before leaving office; however, his judgeship commission was not delivered to him in time. Marbury would not actually become a Justice of the Peace until he received the Commission, so Marbury sued for a writ of mandamus ordering Madison deliver the commission. The Supreme Court denied Marbury's request in Marbury v. Madison (1803).

The Supreme Court, in its Rule 20, gives the procedures for filing a writ of mandamus or other "extraordinary writs." See especially this highlighted quote:

The petition shall be served on every party to the proceeding with respect to which relief is sought. Within 30 days after the petition is placed on the docket, a party shall file 40 copies of any brief or briefs in opposition thereto, which shall comply fully with Rule 15. If a party named as a respondent does not wish to respond to the petition, that party may so advise the Clerk and all other parties by letter. All persons served are deemed respondents for all purposes in the proceedings in this Court.

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