What is a “Writ”?

A “writ” is written court order which commands someone to do something or to refrain from doing something. This term originated in English common law where it was first used to describe a written command from the King. As such, a writ carried great weight and authority. American common law incorporated the term “writ” into its legal system as well.

In modern American law, a “writ” is distinguishable from a mere “order” in that writs are generally only used to grant extraordinary relief. For example, a Writ of Habeas Corpus is an order which releases a person from confinement. (Habeas corpus is a Latin term, meaning “you have the body.” Oftentimes, the word “Writ” is followed by a Latin word or phrase which describes the purpose of the writ.)

Some other examples of modern-day writs are: Writ of Sequestration (used to seize or sequester someone’s property), Writ of Injunction (used to prevent someone from taking a particular action), Writ of Mandamus (used by higher courts to mandate that a lower court act or refrain from acting), Writ of Garnishment (permits someone to seize someone else’s money), Writ of Attachment (directs law enforcement to find someone and bring them to court) and Writ of Quo Warranto (requires an official to show authority to act).

— Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas

This entry was posted in Legal History, Studying for the Texas Bar Exam? Useful Topics, Understanding Basic Legal Concepts and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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