Assistance w/ Writ of Mandamus
A writ of mandamus is an order from a superior court compelling a government officer to perform mandatory duties correctly. For example, a writ of mandamus may be used to have a title for a car issued when there are no other options available.
Filing an action for a writ of conventional mandamus
Circuit courts have jurisdiction in an action for mandamus. To begin an action for a writ of mandamus, a person needs to file a complaint conforming to the form for a pleading described in Md. Rules 2-303 through 2-305. The court clerk will collect a fee at the time of filing. The complaint must be filed within a reasonable time after the public official has failed to do the action the person wants done. The plaintiff, or person suing, should name the public official in his or her official capacity as the defendant, or person being sued. A complaint seeking a writ of mandamus will look much like any other civil complaint, including numbered paragraphs with a simple statement of facts showing the plaintiff’s right to the action sought. The complaint should end with a statement of what the plaintiff wants the court to do. In an action for a writ of mandamus, the plaintiff may ask for specific damages in addition to the order, but the plaintiff may not make a claim for additional general relief that the court may find the plaintiff is entitled. Read the Rule: MD Rules 2-303 – 2-305
Titling a vehicle
As an example, someone who wishes to title a vehicle must file a petition for a writ of mandamus in circuit court stating how he/she came into possession of the vehicle and asking the court to issue a writ of mandamus commanding the motor vehicle administration to issue a title. The petition would name the motor vehicle administration as the defendant.
The Circuit Courts do not provide forms for filing a complaint. There are a number of books that have sample forms in them showing the format of a civil complaint in general and specific sample complaints in an action for a writ of mandamus. Full citations are below.
- Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland § 7.5
- Maryland Civil Procedure Forms Title 15: Chapter 700 (Form 15-701)
- American Jurisprudence Pleading and Practice Forms: Volume 17 Mandamus
Like in any other civil proceeding, the defendant then has 30 days to respond with either a preliminary motion or an answer. The answer shall fully and specifically list all defenses that the defendant intends to claim. Read the Law: MD CT. & JUD. PROC. § 3-8B-01, MD Rule 15-701, MD Rule 2-303, MD Rule 2-322, MD Rule 2-323
If the official fails to respond to the complaint, the court will, on motion, hear the complaint ex parte, or without the defendant present. On request from either party, an action for a writ of mandamus will be tried before a jury. The rules of discovery and evidence that apply in regular civil proceedings also apply in an action for a writ of mandamus. If your case goes to trial you should understand that representing yourself at trial may be difficult, and you are encouraged to seek the help of an attorney. Peoples Law Library maintains a list of organizations that may provide free and reduced cost legal services. Read the Law: MD CT. & JUD. PROC. § 3-8B-02, MD Rule 2-401 et seq., MD Rule 5-101 et seq.
Rule 15-701(e) describes the requirements of a writ of mandamus. The writ must command the public official to perform the action immediately, unless the court gives the official additional time to complete the action. When the action is complete, the official must file a certificate stating the acts commanded by the writ have been done. Read the Rule: MD Rule 15-701(e)
Titling a vehicle
The court order and an application for title must be submitted to the Motor Vehicle Administration. The administration will refuse to issue a title if the order does not clearly command the administration to issue a title, if there is a lien on the vehicle, if the vehicle is not fully identified, a salvage certificate has been previously issued in this State or another state, or a salvage certificate had been previously issued containing the brand “Not Re-buildable—–Parts Only—–Not To Be Re-titled.” Read the Regulation: COMAR § 18.104.22.168
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