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AGO 1952 No. 315 - May 28, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

JUSTICE COURT DISTRICTS

Where justice court districts are established justices will no longer be elected for individual precincts.  An entire county, including cities of less than 5,000 population, may be combined into one justice court district but such district may have only one justice.

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                                                                   May 28, 1952

Mr. R. C. Watts
Executive Secretary
Washington State Association
of County Commissioners
111 East State Avenue
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 315

Dear Sir:

            Receipt is acknowledged of your letter of May 13, 1952, in which you ask the following questions:

            "1. Does the repeal section, Section 17 (of chapter 156, Laws of 1951) repeal the entire matter of section 3.04.010 RCW [[RCW 3.04.010]]or does any portion thereof remain on the statute books?

            "2. Under chapter 156 (Laws of 1951) may an entire county, including incorporated towns of less than 5,000 population, be made into a single Justice Court District?  If the answer to this question is in the affirmative, may such a county-wide Justice Court District have more than one Justice of the Peace?"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            It is our conclusion that RCW 3.04.010 is not specifically repealed by section 17, chapter 156, Laws of 1951, but is superseded by other provisions of chapter 156, Laws of 1951, and is inoperative.  An entire county, including incorporated towns of less than 5,000 population may be made into a single justice court district, but if this is done, there may be only one justice of the peace for the district.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 17, chapter 156, Laws of 1951, contains specific repeals of a number of statutes relative to justices of the peace.  However, it does not expressly repeal section 3.04.010 of the Revised Code of Washington, nor any portion of chapter LXVIII, Laws of 1888, from which the section of RCW is derived.  The language of RCW 3.04.010 has been recast so that it does not read the same as the act from which it is taken.  The pertinent portion of the act is section 1.  It is set out in Rem. Rev. Stat. § 7544, and reads:

            "The qualified electors of each election precinct in this state shall, at the next general election, and biennially thereafter, elect one or more justices of the peace as hereinafter provided."

            Under RCW 1.04.020 (section 6, chapter 5, Laws of 1951) the code did not change the meaning of the statute existing prior to the code's adoption.  Hence, the original text is official in determining the meaning of the statute.  The section does not specify that there shall be elected one justice for each precinct but only that the electors of each precinct shall elect one or more justices of the peace.  Since, under any arrangement, the electors of each precinct will have a vote for one or more justices of the peace it might be contended that the section is still fully effective.  However, if the section is to be interpreted as meaning that there shall be elected a justice for each precinct, it is directly contrary to the general provisions of chapter 156, Laws of 1951 (RCW 3.14.010 et seq.) which provides for the establishment of justice court districts and the combining of precincts for this purpose.  Since the conflict between the two would be irreconcilable the later statute would prevail.  The law is well settled that where a later statute is irreconcilable with a previous statute and it appears that the legislature has undertaken to cover the subject by the later statute, the former will be considered repealed by implication.  In re Stanford, 10 Wn. (2d) 686, 118 P. (2d) 179; State ex rel. Port of Seattle v. Dept. of Public Service, 1 Wn. (2d) 102, 95 P. (2d) 1007; Peterson v. King County, 189 Wash. 106, 90 P. (2d) 729.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It is, therefore, our opinion that RCW 3.04.010 has been superseded by the provisions of section 8, chapter 156, Laws of 1951 (RCW 3.14.010).

            We turn now to your second question.  Section 8, chapter 156, Laws of 1951 (RCW 3.14.010) providing for the formation of justice court districts, places no restrictions which would prevent the inclusion of all the area in a county, including cities of less than 5,000 population, within one justice court district.  Section 10, chapter 156, Laws of 1951 (RCW 3.14.020) provides:

            "There shall be one justice of the peace elected for each justice court district at the general election to be held in November, 1954, and quadrennially thereafter, and their terms of office shall be for four years from the second Monday in January following their election and until their successors are elected and qualified."

            This specific language designates that there shall be but one justice of the peace for each district.  In view of this language it is our opinion that it would not be permissible to elect more than one justice if all the territory of an entire county were included within one justice court district.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

LYLE L. IVERSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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