Mandamus is one of the extraordinary writs by which a higher court can mandate to a lower court. To seek it is an original proceeding, not an appeal. It's form is that it is a lawsuit against a trial judge, an appeals court or a government agency. Applying for mandamus can really anger a trial judge because the judge is a respondent, acting in the proceeding pro se or through counsel. A party can apply for a writ of mandamus even though it has not gotten a final judgment. The party seeking the mandamus is the applicant or movant, and a party affected by the application that did not seek it is called a real party in interest. The respondent in an application to Texas Supreme Court or the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is either a court of appeals or a government agency.
From In re TXU Elec. Co., 67 S.W.3d 130,132 (Tex. 2001): Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy available "only in situations involving manifest and urgent necessity and not for grievances that may be addressed by other remedies." Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex.1992). To obtain mandamus relief, the relator must demonstrate a clear abuse of discretion for which there is no adequate remedy at law. Id. at 839-40. A party establishes that no adequate remedy at law exists by showing that the party is in real danger of permanently losing its substantial rights. Canadian Helicopters, Ltd. v. Wittig, 876 S.W.2d 304, 306 (Tex.1994). Thus, mandamus will not issue absent "compelling circumstances." Tilton v. Marshall, 925 S.W.2d 672, 681 (Tex.1996).
What does this mean? First of all, if what the party is complaining about could be adequately remedied by appeal, then mandamus should not issue. A mandamus will issue for an important discovery dispute, but not for an improper jury charge, for example. Second, what the party wants the court or agency to do must be something that it is absolutely clear that the court must do. It is not for complaining about bad judgment calls by courts, but for complaining about things that it is clear that the court has a duty to do.
If a higher court grants a writ of mandamus, it often does so in an unusual way that we will discuss in a later post.