What is a Writ?
A writ is a type of civil court proceeding. The law establishes several types of writs. The Superior Court may review a decision made by a state or local agency or may be asked to compel a state or local agency to refrain from an activity or to take a specific action. The Court of Appeal may be asked to review a lower court’s ruling when an appeal is not an adequate remedy. You may consider filing a petition for a writ if you are unhappy with a ruling that a trial court has made in your case.
If you are interested in filing a petition for a civil writ, appealing, or seeking another type of relief under California law, an appellate lawyer at our law firm can help. To learn more about our law firm’s legal services, call Evans Kingsbury LLP today at (707) 596-6090 or contact us online.
Understanding a Civil Writ
A writ is a civil order issued by a court. The order may compel a state or local agency to refrain from doing something or compel it to take a specific action. An order may also be issued by a higher court compelling a lower court to do something such as vacate an order and hold another hearing.
Writ review is performed by a court of appeal when a lower court issues a ruling that is not immediately subject to appeal and is highly prejudicial to a party’s rights. You can file a petition for a civil writ when you want an appellate court to review a trial court ruling that you cannot immediately appeal. In other words, if you want a higher court to reconsider a decision by a trial court before it has issued a final judgment and no statute makes that decision specifically appealable, you can seek a civil writ.
A writ is different from an appeal. Only final judgments are appealable, or, in some cases, certain statutes permit appeal of interlocutory rulings or rulings that are not yet final. Examples of these rulings include an order for a party to pay monetary sanctions over $5,000 or an order to partition real property. (See California Code of Civil Procedure § 904.1.)
An Appellate Court Has Discretion in Reviewing a Writ
If you wish to seek writ review of a lower court decision, you need to file a petition for a writ in the appropriate Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal has complete discretion over whether to consider your petition. Unlike in an appeal, the appellate court is not required to consider your civil writ petition and decide it on its merits. Most writ petitions are denied shortly after they are filed.
Reasons for Granting a Civil Writ
Appellate courts rarely grant review of civil writ petitions. When a writ petition is granted, it generally takes precedence over other pending matters. The Court of Appeal usually hears writ petitions for matters of great legal importance, not just to the parties themselves, but also potentially to the judicial system and the State of California, or where a party’s constitutional rights are involved.
Reasons for Denial of a Civil Writ
Appellate courts deny almost all writ petitions. However, denying your writ petition does not mean that the trial court’s ruling is correct or that your arguments have no merit.
In most cases, the appellate court’s order denying your civil writ petition is a summary order consisting of a single sentence. The order provides no reason for the court’s denial of your petition. Typically, the courts of appeal deny writ petitions because the arguments do not meet certain criteria for the subject matter, the circumstances of the lawsuit are unsuitable, the matter is not sufficiently urgent for the court to address in that the ruling is not irreparably harming a party’s legal rights, or the issue can be raised later on appeal.
Furthermore, appellate courts are hesitant to be actively involved in reviewing pieces of the trial court’s proceedings. Instead, the appellate courts prefer that the litigants finish the suit at the trial court level, receive a final judgment, and then appeal the ruling if they find it unjust or incorrect.
Alternatives to a Civil Writ
If you receive a denial of your writ petition, your only option is to wait until the trial court has heard your entire case and issued a final judgment. You then can file an appeal of the final judgment if you choose. You have the legal right to file a civil appeal as long as you file your Notice of Appeal on time.
How to Maximize Your Chances of Obtaining Writ Relief
You generally must meet the following three requirements for an appellate court to grant a civil writ petition:
- You have no other plain, speedy, and adequate legal remedy;
- You will suffer irreparable injury if such relief is not granted; and
- You have a beneficial interest in the outcome of the lawsuit.
You also will maximize your chances of having an appellate court review your writ petition if you meet any of the following criteria:
- The writ concerns an issue that presents a significant constitutional issue, newly enacted legislation, or a matter of widespread interest.
- The writ is necessary to correct a ruling that substantially deprives the petitioner of the opportunity to plead or present a substantial portion of the claim.
- The writ involves an opportunity to resolve conflicting interpretations of a law by the trial courts.
- The lower court’s ruling is clearly erroneous and causes substantial prejudice to the petitioner.
- The litigant seeking the writ does not have a direct appeal by which to attain relief.
Get Legal Representation with Your Writ Petition Today
Working with an experienced California appellate attorney is crucial to succeeding with a writ petition. The attorneys at Evans Kingsbury LLP have presented many writ petitions, and our track record speaks for itself.
Noreen Evans has been certified by the State Bar as a specialist in civil writs and appeals.
Deirdre Kingsbury and Noreen Evans are experienced appellate attorneys who will represent your interests in filing or defending against writ petitions, appeals, or civil litigation. Call an appellate lawyer at our law firm today at (707) 596-6090 or contact us online and schedule a time to discuss your legal matter.