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What does a writ of coram vobis mean?

Santa Ana, CA |

I am appealing my civil court case. I was advised to write a a writ of coram vobis. Could you please explain what this means? Thank you

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Best answer

    Dear ?,

    "Where the evidence of extrinsic fraud is discovered during the pendency of an appeal, an appellate court can issue a writ of error coram vobis commanding the trial court to reconsider its decision in light of the newly discovered evidence. 5 (Mullen v. Department of
    Real Estate, supra, 204 Cal.App.3d at p. 301, 251 Cal.Rptr. 12; Los Angeles Airways, Inc. v. Hughes Tool Co. (1979) 95 Cal.App.3d 1, 8-9, 156 Cal.Rptr. 805; Rollins v. City and County of San Francisco (1974) 37 Cal.App.3d 145, 148-149, 112 Cal.Rptr. 168.) A writ of error coram vobis will issue only where the error does not appear in the record, no other remedy is available and the issue involved has not been previously determined. ( Los Angeles Airways, Inc. v. Hughes Tool Co., supra, 95 Cal.App.3d at p. 9, 156 Cal.Rptr. 805.)"
    Betz v. Pankow, 16 Cal.App.4th 931, 941, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 841, 846-847 (1st Dist.1993).

    See also footnote 5: " The common law writ of error coram nobis is used to secure relief, in the same court in which a judgment was entered, from an error of fact alleged to have occurred at trial. In this state its use has been confined almost exclusively to criminal cases. (3 Witkin, Cal.Procedure, op. cit. supra, Actions, § 22.) Technically, when the petition is addressed to the trial court it is coram nobis, and when addressed to an appellate court it is coram vobis. (8 Witkin, Cal.Procedure, op. cit. supra, Attack on Judgment in Trial Court, § 4; Prickett, The Writ of Error Coram Nobis in California (1990) 30 Santa Clara L.Rev. 1.)"

    You should not attempt this writ on your own since 1) you do not even know for sure if it lies (that's lawyer talk for is properly available to you) in your case and 2) the preparation of it is beyond the ability of a great share of even experienced appellate lawyers.
    But, if you must, then you cannot do it without the guidance of a book entitled California Civil Writ Practice published by California Continuing Education of the Bar, see Chapters 14 and 15. This is the book lawyers who have never done a writ before use.
    You can look for it at a university law school library or at your county law library.
    Yours sincerely,
    Tim Provis
    Cal. Bar No. 104800
    Wis. Bar No. 1020123
    Member: U.S. Supreme Court Bar


  2. I just want to reiterate Mr. Provis's great advice that you not attempt this on our own unless absolutely necessary. As he said, most lawyers are unequipped to handle such a matter. By doing it yourself, you not only waste your time, but potentially your opportunity (to the extent it is even available to you anyways) to obtain the relief you seek. You should at bear minimum have an attorney review your case and tell you whether such a writ is even appropriate in your case so you don't go wasting your time and hope. And, you may find out from the lawyer that another avenue is available to you. So, you should at bare minimum consult with an attorney to point you in the right direction, even if you aren't going to hire them to handle the entire case.

    Michel & Associates, PC
    (562) 216-4444

    All my comments here are intended for general legal purposes. None of my comments here establish an attorney-client relationship with anyone. None of my comments should be relied on in taking legal action without first consulting an attorney.


  3. Mr. Provis has given you a good legal answer. I will give you a linguistic one, having studied Latin for most of my adult life. Coram vobis derives from the Latin phrase quae coram nobis resident- meaning roughly these things having happened in our presence. It is a writ used to correct manifest error but it differs from a writ of habeas corpus in that there is no custody requirement.

    I do not know why the law clings to so many Latin phrases. It does not bother me particularly since I have studied Latin, but it seems as though the purpose of using this argot is to add a level of majesty and to confuse the common man. I am not down for that.

    That said, we in the law owe a huge debt of gratitude to the bar of ancient Rome and to the system of laws that the Roman Republic developed. Everything from our family law to the organization of our military, to our property law, to the jury system, to the organization of our government in many ways evolved from Rome. But, we can do without the Latin, I think.

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