The place of confinement would not be different, since in those days the dangerously insane in the District of Columbia were confined in the same jail as indicted criminals. (There was no insane asylum in the district until 1852; between 1841 and 1852 the dangerously insane from the district were accommodated in the Maryland Hospital in Baltimore, and before then they were left in jail.) Counsel for the prisoner intimated, however, that the court could “meliorate his condition, or change his custody.” Despite the prosecutor’s agreement that the writ should issue, the court denied the petition on grounds that clearly show the close relationships among the various mechanisms of preventive confinement:

User3169 generously suggested:

Definition 16. to be printed or published; be put forth and circulated

Then does issue equate to be issued? What are the similarities and differences?

Source: P64, America on Trial, by Alan Dershowitz

  • 1
    How about issue sense 16, "to be printed or published; be put forth and circulated"?
    – user3169
    Commented Oct 26, 2014 at 6:11
  • 4
    The root sense of issue is intransitive, to "go out"; the transitive senses, to "cause to go out" are a later development. This particular use with writ as subject is specific to the law. Commented Oct 26, 2014 at 13:51
  • ... Though the ergative usage is also possible with say pamphlets, newspaper editions. The similar middle usage is for habitual issues ('Superbat' issues on the fourth of every month). Commented Aug 31, 2020 at 15:15
  • Dershowitz, good lawyer, bad writer, horrible man. But the writ should issue is found in AmE court usage. law.cornell.edu/wex/….
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 10, 2022 at 22:52
  • @StoneyBonhiatus Yes. As the fire took hold in the building the crowd issued on to the street.
    – WS2
    Commented Apr 11, 2022 at 22:54

3 Answers 3


the writ should issue, rather than be issued, is used in AmE court parlance.

Here is one example:

**County of Sacramento v. Hastings, 132 Cal. App. 2d 419, 420 [282 P.2d 100], holds: "The rules with reference to original proceedings in reviewing courts require: '(1) If the petition might lawfully have been made to a lower court in the first instance, it shall set forth the circumstances which, in the opinion of the petitioner, render it proper that the writ should issue originally from the reviewing court.' ** [meaning: the writ should be issued originally by the reviewing court or the writ should come from the reviewing court]

Also, the reason for this is the definition of issue from Merriam Webster: : the action of going, coming, or flowing out : EGRESS, EMERGENCE

So, the writ should issue actually means: to come out of. However, in this court parlance, that is a more old-fashioned use of the word. We continue to say things like: smoke issued from the building. But it is more unusual to say: the document should issue (come out of) from the main office.

California Court of Appeal


Consider sense 24 in Collins:

(intransitive) to originate or proceed

Thus, the meaning is:

Despite the prosecutor's argument that the writ should proceed...


I would say the quote you posted is “legalese.”

You can use “issue” intransitively, and it does mean the same as “be issued,” but this usage isn’t particularly common in regular language.

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