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AGO 1955 No. 100 - June 14, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

COUNTY SUPPLIES FOR NON-SALARIED [[NONSALARIED]]JUSTICES OF THE PEACE

The county commissioners should furnish the necessary supplies to non-salaried [[nonsalaried]]justices of the peace to keep the records required by law.

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                                                                   June 14, 1955

Honorable Lee J. Reynolds
Prosecuting Attorney
Clallam County
Kuppler Building
Port Angeles, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 100

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following question:

            Must the county commissioners furnish supplies to the justices of the peace who are on a fee basis?

            It is our opinion that the county commissioners should furnish the necessary supplies to non-salaried [[nonsalaried]]justices of the peace to keep the records required by law.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The statutes pertaining to justices of the peace require them to keep various docket books.  RCW 3.04.110 provides:

            "Every justice of the peace shall keep a docket in a well-bound book, * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            RCW 3.04.120 provides:

            "Each justice of the peace shall keep a separate docket for the small claims department of his court, in which he shall make a permanent record of all proceedings, orders, and judgments had and made in such small claims department."

            By the above statutes the fee compensated justice of the peace must keep at least two separate well-bound books containing a detailed permanent record of all the proceedings, orders, and judgment performed in his justice court.

            After the completion of the term or the business of a justice of the peace records must be turned in.

            RCW 3.04.130 provides:

            "If any justice of the peace dies, resigns, or removes out of the precinct or justice court district for which he was elected, or his term of office is in any manner terminated, the docket books, records, and papers appertaining to his office, or relating to any suit, matter, or controversy committed to him in his official capacity, shall be delivered to the nearest justice in the precinct, * * *"

            To enforce the above provision the legislature enacted RCW 3.04.140 which provides as follows:

            "Every person whose duty it is to deliver over the docket books, records, and papers, as prescribed in RCW 3.04.130, shall forfeit and pay, for the use of the county, fifteen dollars for every three months' neglect to perform such duty, which sum may be recovered at the  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the suit of any person."

            From the above statutes we find the intent of the legislature is to require that the records of the justice of the peace courts be kept and that they be turned over to the county authorities at the termination of the justices' term.  By the state constitution, Article IV, § 1, we note that the justice courts are a part of the court system of the state.  The records required to be kept are therefore part of the court records of the state.  True, the justice of the peace court is not a court of record, but as stated inState ex rel. Brockway v. Whitehead, 88 Wash. 549, 550, (1915).

            "It does not follow that courts not of record may not keep dockets and records of their proceedings.  In fact they are generally required to do so by statute.  24 Cyc. 633.  They are required to do so in this state.  * * *"

            Both the Federal constitution, Amendment V, and the Washington Constitution, Article I, § 16, provide that no private property may be taken without just compensation.  Certainly the justice of the peace would not be required to purchase books and records at his own expense and then be forced under threat of penalty to turn in such property to county authorities.  The docket books and records are required to be kept by law for county purposes and should therefore be furnished by the county.

            We hope the foregoing will prove to be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

MAURICE M. EPSTEIN
Assistant Attorney General

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