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AGO 1951 No. 89 - July 20, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

JUSTICE COURT DISTRICTS ‑- JUSTICES OF THE PEACE ‑- NUMBER OF ‑- QUALIFICATIONS

(1) When an incorporated city of less than 5,000 population joins a justice court district, the electors of the city then become electors of the justice court district, and thereafter only one justice of the peace shall be elected by all of the district electors to serve the entire districts.

(2) The qualifications of a justice of the peace serving incorporated cities of less than 5,000 in population not becoming a part of a justice court district are the same as existed prior to the enactment of chapter 156, Laws of 1951.

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                                                                    July 20, 1951

Mr. Donald H. Webster, Director
Bureau of Governmental Research & Services
University of Washington
266 J. Allen Smith Hall
Seattle 5, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 89

Dear Sir:

            This is to acknowledge your letter of June 4, 1951, in which you requested our opinion on the following three questions:

            "1. If an incorporated city or town of not more than 5,000 population forms a part of a Justice Court District pursuant to Sec. 8, Ch. 156, Laws, 1951, are the qualified electors in such city or town no longer entitled to elect two Justices of the Peace therein pursuant to Rem. Rev. Stat. Sec. 7562 since Sec. 10 of the above chapter provides that there shall be one Justice of the Peace elected for each Justice Court District?

            "2. If it is concluded that the electors in incorporated cities and towns under 5,000 that form a part of a Justice Court District are still entitled  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] to elect two Justices of the Peace pursuant to Rem. Rev. Stat. Sec. 7562, are such Justices of the Peace required to satisfy the professional qualifications specified in Sec. 11 of the above chapter, or do the qualifications specified in Sec. 11 apply only to the "one justice of the peace elected for each justice court district" provided for in Sec. 10, Ch. 156, Laws, 1951?

            "3. If the electors of an incorporated city or town having a population under 5,000 that doesnot form a part of a Justice Court District elect two Justices of the Peace pursuant to Rem. Rev. Stat. Sec. 7562, are such Justices of the Peace not required to be attorneys or have any other professional qualifications?"

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            (1) When an incorporated city of less than five thousand population joins a justice court district, the electors of the city then become electors of the justice court district, and thereafter only one justice of the peace shall be elected by all of the district electors to serve the entire districts.

            (2) The qualifications of a justice of the peace serving incorporated cities of less than five thousand in population not becoming a part of a justice court district are the same as existed prior to the enactment of chapter 156, Laws of 1951.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 8, chapter 156, Laws of 1951 provides:

            "There is established in each county a committee which shall be known as the justice court district committee.  The following persons shall be members: The presiding judge of the superior court, the members of the board of county commissioners, the prosecuting attorney, one justice of the peace to be selected by the county commissioners and the county auditor.  It shall be the duty of the committee to meet prior to  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] January 1, 1954, and again within one year from the date of any official federal or county census, for the purpose of grouping the precincts of the county which are not presently included within city justice of the peace precincts, into one or more justice court districts:  Provided, That each incorporated city having a population of not more than five thousand, together with the adjoining precincts, if any, lying partly within and partly without such city, may be combined by the district committee with county precincts to form a justice court district.  Justice court districts may be established in each county by resolution of the board of county commissioners, in accordance with the findings and recommendations of the committee, before July 1, 1954, and again subsequent to the meetings held pursuant to a federal or county census."

            Section 10, chapter 156, Laws of 1951 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."

            Rem. Rev. Stat. section 7562 (RCW 3.12.010) provides:

            "Each incorporated city in the state with a population of not more than five thousand inhabitants, together with the adjoining precincts, if any, lying partly within and partly without such city shall, for the purposes of this title, and for fixing and limiting the number of justices of the peace to be elected in such city, be deemed and considered one precinct, and the qualified electors within the limits thereof shall vote for and elect two justices of the peace, and no more."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            The answer to your first inquiry requires an interpretation of the above three sections in conjunction with each other.  Section 8, above, authorizes incorporated cities of five thousand population or less to become a part of a justice court district.  Section 10, above, provides that there shall be one justice of the peace for each justice court district.  Rem. Rev. Stat. section 7562, above, provides for two justices of the peace for incorporated cities of five thousand population or less.  This latter section was not amended or repealed by chapter 156, Laws of 1951, and thus remains in force.

            However, when an incorporated city of less than five thousand population becomes a part of a justice court district, the effect of section 7562 must be suspended in favor of the provisions of chapter 156, Laws of 1951.  Thus when such a city is formed as part of a justice court district, the provisions of chapter 156, Laws of 1951 control.  Consequently, it is our opinion that since only one justice of the peace is to serve a justice court district, when such a city becomes a part of the district it loses its right to act independently, and the electors thereof, with the other electors of the district, shall elect but one justice of the peace to serve the entire district.

            Please find enclosed a copy of our opinion to the Secretary of State dated August 14, 1950, which, we feel, may be of assistance to you.

            Our conclusion on your first inquiry appears to prelude the necessity of discussing your second question.

            In respect to your third inquiry, it is our opinion that the qualifications of a justice of the peace for cities less than five thousand, not forming a part of a justice court district, remain unaffected by the provisions of chapter 156, or chapter 74, Laws of 1951.  These two chapters only affect justices of the peace in cities over five thousand in population and justices of the peace for justice court districts.  Accordingly, the qualifications of a justice of the peace for cities less than five thousand population not forming a part of a justice court district are the same as existed heretofore.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

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