Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1968 No. 17 - May 02, 1968
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS - JUSTICE - COSTS OF PROBATION AND PAROLE SERVICES.

The costs incurred by a county which is engaged in probation and parole services for persons convicted of crimes in justice court, under § 9, chapter 200, Laws of 1967, may not be regarded as expenditures of the justice court; hence, in the case of a county which has adopted the justice court system established by chapter 299, Laws of 1961, these probation and parole costs may not be funded as justice court expenditures under the provisions of RCW 3.62.050.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    May 2, 1968

Honorable Robert E. Schillberg
Prosecuting Attorney
Snohomish County
Court House
Everett, Washington 98201

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1968 No. 17

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            When a county which has adopted the justice court system established by chapter 299, Laws of 1961, engages in probation and parole services for persons convicted of crimes in justice court under § 9, chapter 200, Laws of 1967, may the county treat the costs of said services as expenditures of the justice court and thereby fund them under the provisions of RCW 3.62.050?

            We answer this question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            By § 9, chapter 200, Laws of 1967, the legislature provided that:

            "Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 72.01 RCW or any other provision of law, counties may engage in probation and parole services and employ personnel therefor under  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] such terms and conditions as any such county shall so determine."

            In addition, by § 7 of this act, the legislature amended RCW 9.92.060 (a statute dealing with the suspension of sentences) by adding a proviso reading as follows:

            ". . . PROVIDED, That persons convicted in justice court may be placed under supervision of a probation officer employed for that purpose by the board of county commissioners of the county wherein the court is located."

            Finally, by § 8 of the act, the legislature amended RCW 9.95.210 (a statute speaking of probation) by adding this proviso:

            ". . . PROVIDED, That for defendants found guilty in justice court, like functions as the board of prison terms and paroles performs in regard to probation may be performed by probation officers employed for that purpose by the board of county commissioners of the county wherein the court is located."

            The terms of these enactments are clear in authorizing counties to engage in probation and parole services for persons convicted of crimes in justice court, and to employ probation officers for that purpose.  However, chapter 200, Laws of 1967, makes no mention as to how these services are to be funded.

            In the absence of a funding provision in this chapter, we must look to the rule that the ordinary expenses and lawful obligations of county government are payable from the current expense fund (originally called the general fund)unless some other legislative provision has been made.  State ex rel. Adams v. Irwin, 74 Wash. 589, 134 Pac. 484, 135 Pac. 472 (1913); AGO 63-64 No. 76; 15 McQuillin, Municipal Corporations, 3rd ed., § 39.45.  The specific question now raised in effect asks whether RCW 3.62.050, a part of the 1961 justice court act,1/  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] can be said to be such a provision.

            This statute (§ 109, chapter 299, Laws of 1961, amended by § 2, chapter 213, Laws of 1963), together with other related provisions dealing with the collection and distribution of justice court fees, fines, forfeitures and penalties, was the subject of a prior opinion of this office (AGO 63-64 No. 10, copy enclosed) relating, generally, to the remittance and accounting for income of a justice court operating under this 1961 act.  In that opinion, we said:

            "Allfees collected by a justice court operating under the new justice court act, except fees collected by a municipal department of a justice court (RCW 3.46.120) are to be remitted to the county treasurer to be credited to the county current expense fund.  RCW 3.62.030.  Costs, fines, forfeitures and penalties assessed and collected by justice courts because of violations of city ordinances are to be remitted to the treasurer of the city wherein the violation occurred.  RCW 3.62.040.  All other fines, forfeitures and penalties assessed and collected by justice courts are to be remitted at least monthly to the county treasurer together with a financial statement noting the information necessary for crediting of such funds as required by law (i.e., including credits to various special funds or funds of other governmental units entitled to portions of fines, forfeitures and penalties assessed for specific violations).  RCW 3.62.020."

            Then, with specific reference to RCW 3.62.050 (the section to which your question is directed) we said:

            "With regard to the disbursement of justice court receipts thus paid over to the county treasurer (either as fees creditable to the current expense or salary fund, or as fines, forfeitures and penalties creditable to special funds and/or other governmental units), RCW 3.62.050 . . . provides as follows:

            "'Quarterly, the county treasurer shall  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] determine the difference between the amount deposited to the current expense or salary fund by each justice court and the total expenditures of each justice court:  Provided, That the cost of providing courtroom or other space shall not be included in such total expenditures for the purposes of this section.  The treasurer shall then charge each governmental unit fund entitled to share in the receipts of the court its proportionate share of such unreimbursed difference of expenditures incurred during the quarter and make the appropriate treasurer's remittance to the current expense or salary fund.  The proportionate share charged against each fund shall be determined by the relationship between the unreimbursed expenditures and the total credits of the court to each fund as required by RCW 3.62.020.  Balances remaining in governmental funds shall then be remitted as provided by law.'  (Emphasis supplied.)"

            Although the proviso relating to payment of costs of providing courtroom or other space, etc., has been removed from the statute since the issuance of this 1963 opinion (see, § 2, chapter 213, Laws of 1963), the portion of the statute which states that its funding provisions only apply to "the expenditures of such justice courts, . . ." is still a part of the statute.2/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            The reason, in our opinion, that this statute cannot be used to provide for the funding of county probation and parole services provided under authority of chapter 200, Laws of 1967,supra, is simply that a county's expenditures for these services are not "expenditures of such justice courts."  The only statutory relationship between the justice courts and the newly authorized probation and parole services is that created by § 7 and § 8 of the 1967 act, i.e., persons convicted in justice court and given a suspended sentence or granted probation, may be placed under the supervision of probation officers employedby the board of county commissioners for that purpose.  This relationship is no more than that which exists, at another level, between the superior courts and the board of prison terms and paroles.  It could certainly not be contended that the salaries and operating expenses of the board of prison terms and paroles constitute "expenditures" of the superior courts.

            In reaching our conclusion, we have not overlooked that portion of § 9, chapter 200, Laws of 1967, which we will underline in again setting out this section:

            "Notwithstanding the provisions of chapter 72.01 RCW or any other provision of law, counties may engage in probation and parole services and employ personnel thereforunder such terms and conditions as any such county shall so determine."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            However, this wording cannot change our conclusion.  First, the underlined phrase could reasonably be interpreted to apply only to the employing of personnel, meaning only that the county may set such salaries and other conditions of employment as it shall determine.  Secondly, even if the phrase, "under such terms and conditions as any such county shall so determine," were regarded to be applicable to the entire section, it would not authorize the county to utilize  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] the terms of RCW 3.62.050, supra, to finance the probation and parole services.  The purpose of RCW 3.62.050 is to provide for a sharing of the cost of the justice courts between the various governmental unit funds entitled to share in the receipts of the justice courts.  See, AGO 65-66 No. 43, copy enclosed.  Without express statutory sanction, a county which engages in a particular service is not authorized to pay for the expenses of this undertaking with money belonging to other governmental units funds, and yet, this would be the effect of utilizing RCW 3.62.050 to finance county probation and parole services.

            It is our conclusion, therefore, that under existing statutes, a county which engages in probation and parole services under § 9, chapter 200, Laws of 1967, may not fund these services under the provisions of RCW 3.62.050.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

KENNETH R. AHLF
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Chapter 299, Laws of 1961, codified as chapter 3.30-3.74 [[chapters 3.30 and 3.74]]RCW.

2/As amended by § 2, chapter 213, Laws of 1963, RCW 3.62.050 reads as follows:

            "Quarterly, the county treasurer shall determine the difference between the amount deposited to the current expense or salary fund by all of the justice courts of the county and thetotal expenditures of such justice courts, including the cost of providing courtroom and office space.  The treasurer shall then charge each governmental unit fund entitled to share in the receipts of the courts its proportionate share of such unreimbursed difference of expenditures incurred during the quarter and make the appropriate treasurer's remittance to the current expense or salary fund.  The proportionate share charged against each fund shall be determined by the relationship between the unreimbursed expenditures and the total credits of the courts to each fund as required by RCW 3.62.020.  Balances remaining in governmental funds shall then be remitted as provided by law."  (Emphasis supplied.)

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo