The writ of mandamus, in effect, orders a governmental agency or subordinate court to do some act. In some states it is has a constitutional basis (Virginia: “The Supreme Court shall, by virtue of this Constitution, have original jurisdiction in cases of habeas corpus, mandamus, and prohibition…”) but in others like Minnesota it is statutorily based. Minn. Stat. § 586.01 currently reads:
The writ of mandamus may be issued to any inferior tribunal, corporation, board, or person to compel the performance of an act which the law specially enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station. It may require an inferior tribunal to exercise its judgment or proceed to the discharge of any of its functions, but it cannot control judicial discretion.
Almost identical language can be found in Arizona (A.R.S. § 12-2021), California (Cal Code Civ Proc § 1085), Montana (Mont. Code Anno., § 27-26-102), Nebraska (R.R.S. Neb. § 25-2156), North Dakota (N.D. Cent. Code, § 32-34-01), Oklahoma (12 Okl. St. § 1451), Oregon (ORS § 34.110), and South Dakota (S.D. Codified Laws § 21-29-1). In none of these states are particular state agencies apparently exempted from the power of the writ.
Minnesota’s HB 48 of 2013, interestingly, would exempt two agencies from the Supreme Court’s power, amending Minn. Stat. § 586.01 to include the following:
The writ of mandamus may not be issued to the Department of Natural Resources or its commissioner or the Pollution Control Agency or its commissioner.
There is no indication why these two agencies would be exempted. The bill is currently before the House Civil Law Committee.