mandamus

[man-dey-muhs] Law.
noun, plural mandamuses.
1.
a writ from a superior court to an inferior court or to an officer, corporation, etc., commanding that a specified thing be done.
verb (used with object)
2.
to intimidate or serve with such writ.

Origin:
< Latin mandāmus we command

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World English Dictionary
mandamus (mænˈdeɪməs)
 
n , pl -muses
law formerly a writ from, now an order of, a superior court commanding an inferior tribunal, public official, corporation, etc, to carry out a public duty
 
[C16: Latin, literally: we command, from mandāre to command]

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Word Origin & History

mandamus
1530s, "writ from a superior court to an inferior one, specifying that something be done," (late 14c. in Anglo-Fr.), from L., lit. "we order," first person plural pres. indicative of mandare "to order" (see mandate).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

mandamus

originally a formal writ issued by the English crown commanding an official to perform a specific act within the duty of his office. It later became a judicial writ issued from the Court of Queen's Bench, in the name of the sovereign, at the request of an individual suitor whose interests were alleged to be affected adversely by the failure of an official to act as his duty required. It is awarded not as a matter of right but rather at the discretion of the court and is thus largely controlled by equitable principles. The writ is not ordinarily granted when an alternative remedy is available, and it is never granted when the official to whom it would be directed has the legal discretion either to perform the act demanded or to abstain from doing so. In Anglo-American legal systems, mandamus is used by courts of superior jurisdiction to compel the performance of a specific act refused by a lower court, such as the hearing of a case falling within the latter's authority.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
The purpose of a mandamus action is to compel an official to perform his or her duty.
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