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mandamus

(man-dame-us) n. Latin for "we order," a writ (more modernly called a "writ of mandate") which orders a public agency or governmental body to perform an act required by law when it has neglected or refused to do so. Examples: After petitions were filed with sufficient valid signatures to qualify a proposition for the ballot, the city refuses to call the election, claiming it has a legal opinion that the proposal is unconstitutional. The backers of the proposition file a petition for a writ ordering the city to hold the election. The court will order a hearing on the writ and afterwards either issue the writ or deny the petition. Or a state agency refuses to release public information, a school district charges fees to a student in violation of state law, or a judge will not permit reporters entry at a public trial. All of these can be subject of petitions for a writ of mandamus.

See also: writ of mandate 

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