When dealing with an agency, a situation may arise where the agency must be compelled to perform a ministerial duty.  For example, if a formal hearing is requested but the agency does not respond or provide a formal hearing, then the agency must be compelled to act.  The tool for compelling the agency to perform such a nondiscretionary, ministerial duty, is mandamus.  Cmty Health Charities of Fla. v. State, 961 So. 2d 372 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007).

The standard for proving mandamus is (1) a clear and established right to relief; (2) an indisputable legal duty; and (3) a lack of adequate legal remedy.  Huffman v. State, 813 So. 2d 10 (Fla. 2000).

Before filing for mandamus, a letter should be sent to the agency demanding action.  Gentile v. Office of Pub. Def., 833 So. 2d 229 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002).  Although a specific time limit generally does not apply after demanding action, mandamus should be filed promptly after an agency has rejected your demand.  Brown v. State, 885 So. 2d 391 (Fla. 5th DCA 2005).  If the agency does not respond to the demand, then mandamus should be filed within a reasonable time after demand, as equitable principles may apply.  Rice v. State, 132 So. 3d 222 (Fla. 2013).

Mandamus is typically filed in circuit court or the district court of appeal, which would have venue over any direct action or appeal.  Fla. R. App. P. 9.100; Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.630. But when seeking mandamus against an agency operating under the Administrative Procedure Act (chapter 120, Florida Statutes), mandamus is typically filed in the applicable district court of appeal, not circuit court.  See Art. V, §5(b); Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.630.

As an example, mandamus against a county is typically filed in the circuit court because counties are generally not operating under the APA.  Conversely, mandamus against a state agency is typically filed in the district court of appeal because state agencies are generally operating under the APA.

Over the years, our firm has used mandamus several times to get a state or local agency to make a ruling or perform some other ministerial act.  Mandamus is thus an important and beneficial tool under administrative law.

Jonathan Taylor is an associate attorney with The Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.  Mr. Taylor concentrates in the areas of Florida tax appeals and general administrative appeals.  Mr. Taylor also volunteers with Guardian ad Litem to handle appellate matters.  Mr. Taylor can be reached at 954-234-2884 or jonathantaylor@floridasalestax.com.