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AGO 1952 No. 372 - August 12, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

POSITIONS OF JUSTICES OF THE PEACE IN CITIES

There is no position vacancy for which one may file in the office of justice of the peace notwithstanding that a city has a population sufficient to justify an additional justice where the county commissioners have taken no action to appoint a person to the vacancy but have taken action to reduce the number of justices.

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                                                                 August 12, 1952

Honorable Earl Coe
Secretary of State
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 372

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of July 31, 1952, in which you request our opinion as to whether a declaration of candidacy was properly filed for a sixth position as justice of the peace in the City of Seattle, based upon the fact that under the 1950 Federal Census, the city is entitled to six justices of the peace, pursuant to section 1, chapter 156, Laws of 1951, RCW 3.12.021, but in view of the fact that the board of county commissioners has taken no action to create a sixth position or to make any appointment to it.

            It is our conclusion that no declaration of candidacy may be recognized for the office of a sixth position of justice of the peace in the City of Seattle.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 156, Laws of 1951 made numerous changes in the laws relative to justices of the peace.  In section 1, which is RCW 3.12.021, the new statute prescribes the number of justices to be elected in cities having a population of five thousand or more.  That section reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The number of justices of the peace to be elected in cities having a population of five thousand or more, according to the last census, shall be as follows: five thousand to twenty thousand, one; twenty thousand to seventy-five thousand, two; seventy-five thousand to one hundred twenty-five thousand, three; one hundred twenty-five thousand to one hundred seventy-five thousand, four; and one additional for each one hundred fifty thousand or major fraction thereof above one hundred seventy-five thousand.  The board of county commissioners may reduce the number of justices of the peace by notifying the secretary of state ninety days prior to the general election at which such reduction is sought.  The secretary of state shall order the ballots to be printed to comply with the action of the board of county commissioners."

            It will be noted that the board of county commissioners is authorized to reduce the number of justices of the peace by notifying the Secretary of State ninety days prior to the general election at which the reduction is sought.  This statute seems to contemplate that the action of the board of county commissioners may be taken at a time subsequent to the close of filings for office since the general election will in all cases take place in November and filings will take place between the 1st and 20th of July, RCW 29.18.030, section 1, chapter 234, Laws of 1947, Rem. Rev. Stat. § 5180.

            We are advised that in the present case the board of county commissioners of King County did take action to reduce the number of justices of the peace from six to five and filed notice thereof with the Secretary of State on August 4, 1952, which was ninety days prior to the general election which will take place on November 4, 1952.  By the express language of section 1, chapter 156, Laws of 1951, this action was sufficient to prevent this position from being on the ballot at either the primary or the general election.  The filing was therefore ineffectual.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

LYLE L. IVERSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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