Nuts and Bolts of Mandamus Procedure

September 19, 2001

It is very difficult in Texas to obtain mandamus relief from an appellate court.  The success rate for mandamus petitions is extremely low (in most appellate courts, less than 2%).  In large part, this is because appellate courts are understandably wary about second-guessing trial judges while a case is on-going.  Thus, the standard for when the writ is available is very difficult to meet – appellate courts will issue a writ of mandamus only when the trial court has committed a clear abuse of discretion for which there is no adequate appellate remedy.  See Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839 (Tex. 1992).
It was my experience as a staff attorney at the Texas Supreme Court that most mandamus petitions are denied on the merits, that is, because the relator fails to demonstrate one or the other of these two prongs (clear abuse of discretion, or lack of an adequate appellate remedy).  However, there were also many mandamus petitions that were denied not on the merits, but because the party seeking the mandamus failed to prepare a proper mandamus petition, or failed to provide an adequate record, or made some other procedural mistake.
This paper is meant to help you get the appellate courts to consider the merits of your mandamus petition.  That is, it is my goal to provide you with the tools you need to avoid the common, and the not-so-common, procedural errors that parties seeking mandamus relief often make.  It is one thing to have an appellate court, after careful consideration of your arguments, decide that your petition lacks merit.  It is another thing entirely for the court to refuse to even look at your arguments because you did not present them in the right package.  It is the purpose of this paper to help ensure that that does not happen to you.
To accomplish this goal, I have organized the paper as a series of questions that, hopefully, will guide you through the process of preparing a mandamus petition and all accompanying materials, as well as provide you with information about where to look for anything else you need to know.

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