Under the All Writs Act, 28 U.S. Code § 1651 - Writs, it appears that it can only be invoked IF AND ONLY IF there are no other "Judicial Tools Available" -- What does this mean?

  1. In Apple's Case: If there are several "Alternative Methods" to attempt to hack the device -- would the All Writs Act still apply in this case?
  2. Can the All Writs Act still be invoked if the most efficient method is not available, but other less efficient methods are available?


In the case of the Court's order to Apple to provide digitally signed -- custom firmware:

In the "Information Security Stack Exchange", it is suggested that the FBI could attempt to decrypt the iPhone in question using other means, (Stack Link to the Issue).

Wikipedia's All Writs Act article suggests, (referencing this paper) that the All Writs Act can only be invoked IF AND ONLY IF the threshold Burden of Proof is met -- that there are no other "judicial tools" available.

Does this mean "no other judicial orders, or laws" -- or does it mean "No other alternate means to accomplish the task"?

  • It's probably a moot question. The case has just been shelved. Mar 27, 2016 at 0:47

1 Answer 1


That's not correct. The All Writs Act authorizes the courts to issue all writs recognized at common law. These writs are used all the time by the courts. However, with a few exceptions, they are rarely referred to using the name of the writ.

We use the name Writ of Certiorari and Writ of Habeas Corpus.

We rarely use the name Writ of Error or Writ of Injunction, even though we are invoking the writ.

The power from the All Writs Act is invoked all the time by the courts.

  • 1
    I find your answer a bit confusing. What isn't correct according to your first sentence? Perhaps you can quote the sentence you are referring to? And how would you answer the last question of the OP?
    – TTT
    Feb 21, 2016 at 16:27
  • "No other tools available" The All Writs Act is invoked all the time and for the routine. Feb 21, 2016 at 23:02

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