Writ of Mandamus In Maryland
Writ of mandamus cases in Maryland:
A writ of mandamus "is a summary remedy, for the want of a specific one, where there would otherwise be a failure of justice.
It is based upon reasons of justice and public policy, to preserve peace, order and good government." Id. at 708.
"The authority to issue mandamus rests within the sound discretion of the court, but that discretion must 'be exercised under the rules long recognized and established at common law.'" Id.
"We have acknowledged that the power to issue an extraordinary writ of mandamus is one which ought to be exercised with great caution." Doering v. Fader, 316 Md. 351, 361, 558 A.2d 733 (1989).
Although the Maryland Constitution only provides circuit courts with statutory authority to grant mandamus, the Court of Appeals has stated that "we have jurisdiction to issue to an inferior court peremptory writs in aid of our appellate jurisdiction." Philip Morris, 358 Md. at 710-11. In support of this conclusion, the Court stated:
Whether we have, as the highest court of this State, an inherent superintending or supervisory power over the courts below us in the judicial hierarchy, and whether any such power is implicit in Article IV, 18 of the Maryland Constitution, are questions we reserve for another day.
We need not and do not address them today because we hold that under the circumstances of this case we have the power to issue a writ of mandamus or a writ of prohibition in aid of our appellate jurisdiction. 358 Md. at 710.
The Philip Morris Court explained that mandamus is in aid to appellate jurisdiction when the use of it is necessary to enable the Court to exercise appellate jurisdiction. 358 Md. at 711.
The Court explained that mandamus aided the appellate process "by making possible the review of a potentially unreviewable question." Id.
For similar reasons, it is within the purview of this Court to issue writs of mandamus. See Bozeman v. Disability Review Bd. of the Prince George's County Police Pension Plan, 126 Md. App. 1, 727 A.2d 384 (1999).
In Maryland common law mandamus has been described as a prerogative writ grantable where the public justice of the State is concerned.
It is a writ to prevent disorder, from a failure of justice, where the law has established no specific remedy, and where in justice and good government there ought to be one. . . .
In re Writ of Prohibition, 312 Md. 280, 307, 539 A.2d 664 (1988) . a writ of mandamus will only be issued in extraordinary cases where that "action is necessary to protect its jurisdiction or accomplish substantial justice." Philip Morris, 358 Md. at 718. the Court ultimately granted mandamus in Philip Morris, stating:
We simply hold that, given the irreparable harm that might otherwise be suffered by the legal system and by Petitioners, we may issue a writ of mandamus in aid of our appellate jurisdiction in the present matter.
It is appropriately within this Court's prerogative to review the order of the Circuit Court granting class certification in this case so extraordinary because of the immense amount of time and expense that both the parties and the judicial system of this State will incur should the litigation proceed as a class action, as well as the astronomical number of persons in Maryland whose lives will be affected by our decision either way.358 Md. at 722.
In Goodwich v. Nolan, the Court of Appeals stated that "judicial review is properly sought through a writ of mandamus 'where there is no statutory provision for hearing or review and where public officials are alleged to have abused the discretionary powers reposed in them.'" 343 Md. 130, 146, 680 A.2d 1040 (quoting State Department of Health v. Walker, 238 Md. 512, 522-23, 209 A.2d 555 (1965)).
"Thus, prior to granting a writ of mandamus to review discretionary acts, there must be both a lack of an available procedure for obtaining review and an allegation that the action complained of is illegal, arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable." Goodwich, 343 Md. at 146. In Prince George's County v. Carusillo, 52 Md. App. 44, 50, 447 A.2d 90 (1982), we stated, "the writ will lie if no statutory provision for a hearing or review exists and public officials are alleged to have abused their discretion."
"The common law writ of mandamus is an original action and not an appeal." Philip Morris Inc., et al. v. the Honorable Edward J. Angeletti, 358 Md. 689, 707, 752 A.2d 200 (2000). See Board of License Commissioners for Anne Arundel County v. Corridor Wine, Inc., t/a Corridor Wine & Spirits, et al., 361 Md. 403, 761 A.2d 916, 2000 Md (2000).
Our mandamus jurisprudence is illustrated both by those cases in which we have granted the writ, as well as those in which we have refused to issue it. for example, in Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission v. Rosenberg, 269 Md. 520, 307 A.2d 704 (1973), we held that mandamus relief was appropriate because there was no statutory provision for judicial review and because the Planning Commission acted arbitrarily and capriciously in refusing to approve a plan for the subdivision of a piece of property. Id. at 529-31, 307 A.2d at 708-10.
In Walker, supra, mandamus was granted in the absence of provision for hearing or review and where the issuance of sewage disposal permits was arbitrarily denied. 238 Md. at 522-23, 209 A.2d at 561.
In Heaps v. Cobb, again we found mandamus relief warranted in the absence of provision for judicial review and where the Board of Trustees of the Employees' Retirement System arbitrarily denied a pension claim by a member's widow. 185 Md. 372 at 379-86, 45 A.2d 73 at 76-79.
In Bovey v. Executive Director, Health Claims Arbitration Office, the petitioners sought a writ of mandamus to compel the Director of the HCAO to inquire of potential arbitration panelists whether they had an economic relationship with the health care providers whose cases they would be deciding.
We denied relief on the basis that the Director was free to exercise discretion in assuring the impartiality of panelists; therefore, mandamus would not lie to compel him to follow a specific procedure. 292 Md. 640 at 649, 441 A.2d 333 at 338.
We also stated that judicial review existed to correct any such errors on the Director's part. Id. In Stark v. State Board of Registration, 179 Md. 276, 19 A.2d 716 (1941), we refused to grant mandamus relief to a petitioner who sought to compel the Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors to issue a license to him, because the record contained no evidence that the Board failed to act or acted arbitrarily and, more importantly, because he failed to exhaust his statutory right of review. Id. at 283-85, 19 A.2d at 719-20. Goodwich, 343 Md. at 147-48.
In Heft v. Md. Racing Comm'n, 323 Md. 257, 274, 592 A.2d 1110 (1991), the Court of Appeals stated:
Under our decisions, this is an administrative exercise of judgment which is not controllable by mandamus. Bovey v. Exec. Dir., Health Claims, 292 Md. 640, 649, 441 A.2d 333, 338 (1982) ("the Director is to bring his sound judgment" in applying certain statutory criteria, and, therefore, "mandamus simply does not lie");
Brack v. Bar Association, 185 Md. 468, 474, 45 A.2d 102, 105 (1945) (mandamus "will not be issued if the . . . duty . . . be of a nature to require the exercise of judgment");
Brack v. Wells, 184 Md. 86, 90, 40 A.2d 319, 321 (1944) ("When an act depends upon . . . judgment, the writ of mandamus will not lie");
Fooks v. Purnell, 101 Md. 321, 323, 61 A. 582 (1905) ("when a matter is confided to the . . . judgment of a tribunal or official, no writ of mandamus would lie . . . to reverse a decision made in pursuance thereof"). Heft, 323 Md. at 274.
The Heft Court stated that the judgment of an administrative agency is not controllable by mandamus when, as in the present situation, it "involves the application of somewhat complex regulatory standards to the facts of a particular situation." Id.
"A court cannot substitute its discretion for the discretion of the Department where there is evidence that reasonably justifies the Department's finding, even though the court may disagree with theDepartment." Id. at 273.
"Mandamus is an original action, as distinguished from an appeal." 52 Am. Jur.2d Mandamus 4 (1970) (footnote omitted). It is "not a substitute for appeal or writ of error." In re Petition for Writ of Prohibition, 312 Md. 280, 306, 539 A.2d 664, 676 (1988).
It is, however, "an extraordinary remedy," Ipes v. Board of Fire Commissioners of Baltimore, 224 Md. 180, 183, 167 A.2d 337, 339 (1961), "that . . . will not lie if there is any other adequate and convenient remedy." A.S. Abell Co. v. Sweeney, 274 Md. 715, 718, 337 A.2d 77, 79 (1975) (quoting Applestein v. Baltimore, 156 Md. 40, 45, 143 A. 666, 668 (1928)).
Mandamus is generally used "to compel inferior tribunals, public officials or administrative agencies to perform their function, or perform some particular duty imposed upon them which in its nature is imperative and to the performance of which duty the party applying for the writ has a clear legal right." Criminal Injuries Compensation Board v. Gould, 273 Md. 486, 514, 331 A.2d 55, 72 (1975); see also George's Creek Coal & Iron Co. v. County Commissioners, 59 Md. 255, 259 (1883).
The writ ordinarily does not lie where the action to be reviewed is discretionary or depends on personal judgment. Board of Education of Prince George's County v. Secretary of Personnel, 317 Md. 34, 46, 562 A.2d 700, 706 (1989); In re Petition, supra, 312 Md. 305-06, 539 A.2d at 676;
Tabler v. Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society, 301 Md. 189, 202 n.7, 482 A.2d 873, 880 n.7 (1984);
Bovey v. Executive Director, HCAO, 292 Md. 640, 646, 441 A.2d 333, 337 (1982);
Maryland Action for Foster Children v. State, 279 Md. 133, 138-39, 367 A.2d 491, 494 (1977). Goodwich, 343 Md. 130, 145, 680 A.2d 1040 (1996).