A writ of prohibition is a judicial order that may be used, at a higher court's discretion, to prevent a lower court from interfering with the higher court's determination of a case pending an appeal. Writs of prohibition are sometimes issued to prohibit a lower court from issuing orders over matters it has no jurisdiction over. Alternatively, the writ may also be used to prevent re-litigating issues that have already been decided by a higher court.
A writ of prohibition has been described as a "drastic remedy," and the legal equivalent of the equitable remedy of injunction. As a result, any petition for the writ should only be granted where the petitioner has no other adequate means of relief. New York courts have further explained that even where the requirements for a writ of prohibition are met, the remedy is not mandatory, and courts hold the ultimate discretion on whether to exercise this authority. In making this decision, courts consider a variety of factors, such as: the gravity of the harm caused by excess power, the availability (or lack of) an adequate remedy on appeal, and the remedial effectiveness of prohibition if such an adequate remedy does not exist.
One example of an appropriately granted writ of prohibition can be seen from the New York Court of Appeals case Soares v. Herrick, 981 N.E. 2d 260 (N.Y. 2012), in which the judge of a county court, in excess of his discretion, disqualified the district attorney from prosecuting a criminal case. The appellate division granted a writ of prohibition to null the county court judge's order, which the Court of Appeals upheld on the grounds that the rationale behind the initial order was erroneous.
See also: Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure › Title V. Extraordinary Writs › Rule 21. Writs of Mandamus and Prohibition
[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]