Appellate courts serve an important function in our legal justice system. Not only do they hear appeals from trial courts and administrative agencies, but they also have original jurisdiction in certain cases. Having “jurisdiction” means having the power to make legal decisions. When a court has appellate jurisdiction, it has the power to decide whether or not a lower court or agency came to the right conclusion. Original jurisdiction is the power to hear a case for the first time.

Extraordinary Writs

A writ is a formal written order by a court. Florida law grants the state’s appellate courts (which include the Florida Supreme Court and five intermediate appellate courts called the District Courts of Appeal) original jurisdiction to issue extraordinary writs. One common example is the writ of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus literally means, “you have the body.” When a prisoner petitions for a writ of habeas corpus, he is asking the court to rule on the validity of his detention. In one Florida case, Stephens v. State, the appellant argued that his life sentence was unfair because the trial judge falsely believed that his conviction mandated a life sentence. The Second District Court of Appeal agreed that the appellant should be afforded the opportunity to have his sentence reconsidered.

There are additional types of extraordinary writs that appellate courts may issue:

    Writ of certiorari – Normally an appellate court hears a case when a party appeals a lower court decision. However, Florida law allows its intermediate appellate courts to review certain non-final order in at their own discretion if they are not subject to appeal under Rule 9.130 and the petitioner can show that the lower tribunal departed from the essential requirements of law or applied the wrong law and he or she would be harmed if review were to wait until the case is finished.Writ of mandamus – The writ of mandamus is used to compel a trial court or government agency to perform a ministerial act that the court or agency has failed or refused to perform, such as to rule on a pending motion. For example, a party might petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the judge to issue an order.Writ of prohibition – This writ allows an appellate court to order a lower court not to act in a certain matter.  For example, it may order the lower tribunal to end a legal proceeding.  If the lower court does not have jurisdiction to hear the case or it may deem a judge disqualified from proceeding further over a case where there has been an indication of bias or prejudice that would likely prevent the petitioner from getting a fair trial or hearing before that judge. A petition for writ of prohibition in the appellate court is often used to challenge a trial-court judge’s denial of a motion for disqualification.

Contact Our Experienced Appellate Attorneys Today

Each writ carries its own procedural requirements, as set forth in the Florida Rules of Appellate Procedure. The extraordinary nature of these writs – their limited reach and exacting procedural rules – requires the attention of an experienced appellate attorney. Bresky Law only handles appeals, appellate law and litigation support. Our thorough knowledge of the appellate process has no equal in South Florida. Your inquiries are welcome. Contact us today at 561-994-6273.