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Prohibition, Writ of


To lawyers as well as others, the term prohibition calls to mind a law forbidding the making, distribution, or possession of intoxicating liquors. In law, however, the term has an ancient common law meaning that retains vitality today. The writ of prohibition is an order from a higher court commanding a lower court to stop hearing a matter outside the lower court's jurisdiction. From the beginning prohibition has been considered an extraordinary writ, one that the higher court may or may not grant, in its discretion. It is not normally to be used as a substitute for an appeal or a petition for a writ of certiorari.

A statute dating from the judiciary act of 1789 is interpreted to empower the united states courts of appeals and the Supreme Court to issue writs of prohibition to lower federal courts. Under this law, the Supreme Court can also issue writs of prohibition to state courts.

Kenneth L. Karst

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