St. Mary's Law Journal


In Walker v. Packer, the Texas Supreme Court attempted to harmonize Texas jurisprudence regarding the standards for issuing a writ of mandamus. The Walker court initially reiterated the maxim that mandamus will issue “only to correct a clear abuse of discretion or the violation of a duty imposed by law when there is no other adequate remedy by law.” The Court defined “clear abuse of discretion” as “a decision so arbitrary and unreasonable as to amount to a clear and prejudicial error of law.” The Court subsequently reaffirmed the “fundamental tenant” of mandamus practice stating the extraordinary writ is not available if an appellate remedy is adequate. Because mandamus is an extraordinary proceeding, the writ will issue only in situations involving manifest and urgent necessity and not for grievances which may be addressed by other remedies. Yet, the subsequent application of the Walker standards has generated some confusion. Critics have referred to the Court’s mandamus cases as “confusing, irreconcilable, and unprecedented.” Despite its detractors, much of the Court’s post-Walker case law can be harmonized into a coherent body of law. While the result in a particular case may not always be readily predicted, the court’s decisions appear to be guided by certain fundamental precepts regarding the availability of mandamus. Obtaining a writ of mandamus requires practitioners to pay careful attention to several jurisdiction, substantive, and procedural hurdles. Mandamus is never required to preserve a complaint for appellate review. Therefore, it may be wise to perform an objective cost/benefit analysis to determine whether the potential of angering the trial judge is justified by the likelihood mandamus will be successful. Practitioners are advised to consider this risk equally to interrupting trial court proceedings to seek an extraordinary writ from an appellate court.


St. Mary's University School of Law