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AGO 1957 No. 85 - June 24, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

FEES OF COUNTY OFFICERS ‑- CLERK'S FEE FOR JUDGMENTS AND DISMISSALS

(1) A clerk of a superior court may charge separate judgment or dismissal fees where there are separate judgments or dismissals rendered as to defendants in civil actions.

(2) A clerk may not assess separate fees where there is more than one defendant but not separate judgments or dismissals.

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

                                                                   June 24, 1957

Honorable Don J. Clark
Prosecuting Attorney
Yakima County
102 County Court House
Yakima, Washington                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 85


Attention:  Mr. Richard C. Focht, Civil Deputy

Dear Sir:

            By letter dated April 24, 1957, you requested an opinion of this office regarding the interpretation of RCW 36.18.020, which prescribes the fees to be collected by clerks of superior courts.  We quote your questions as follows:

            "1. May a Clerk, where there is more than one defendant in a civil action, charge separate judgment or dismissal fees where there are separate judgments or dismissals as to the defendants.

            "2. May a Clerk, where there is more than one defendant in a civil action, charge separate judgment or dismissal fees when there are not separate judgments or dismissals."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We answer question one in the affirmative, and question two in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 36.18.020 reads, in part, as follows:

            "Clerks of superior courts shall collect the following fees for their official services: . . .

            "For the entry of judgment or dismissal in all civil actions, with or without costs, three dollars shall be paid if no adverse party has appeared; otherwise six dollars;"

            In discussing the power of the court to sever an action brought against a number of parties and thereby render judgments against one or more of them, this office previously stated as follows:

            ". . . We are of the opinion that where there is such a severance and several judgments are offered for filing, the clerk is entitled to collect a fee for filing each such judgment."  25 OAG 26 [[1925 OAG 25 to C. W. Clausen, Supervisor of Municipal Corporations on April 2, 1925]].

            As to a situation where two separate and distinct actions were consolidated by a general order of the court so that the original cases no longer existed and there remained but the one consolidated case, this office opined that since only one judgment was necessary the clerk should collect but one fee therefor.  23 OAG 148 [[1923 OAG 148 to C. T. Roscoe, Prosecuting Attorney, Snohomish County on November 5, 1923]]. 

            In RCW 36.18.020, the terms "judgment" and "dismissal" appear in the singular.  For each judgment or dismissal a certain fee is to be collected.  Thus, where there is more than one judgment or dismissal, a similar number of fees should be collected by the clerk of the court.  The appropriate part of this section makes no mention that the number of defendants involved in any way affects the number of fees to be charged for judgments or dismissals in civil actions.  An unambiguous statute must be interpreted according to the plain, ordinary meaning of the language used.  Sandona v. Cle Elum, 37 Wn. (2d) 831;Cochran v. Nelson, 26 Wn. (2d) 82.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It is therefore our opinion that a clerk of a superior court may charge separate judgment or dismissal fees where there are separate judgments or dismissals rendered as to defendants in a civil action, but he may not assess separate fees where there is more than one defendant but not separate judgments or dismissals.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


ERNEST M. FURNIA
Assistant Attorney General

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