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AGLO 1981 No. 8 - April 15, 1981
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS ‑- JUSTICE ‑- JUDGMENTS ‑- EXAMINATION OF JUDGMENT DEBTORS

A district justice court has the authority, under RCW 6.32.010 and 6.32.015, to order examination of judgment debtors personally or by written interrogatories.

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                                                                   April 15, 1981

Honorable David F. Thiele
Prosecuting Attorney
Island CountyCourthouse
Coupeville, Washington 98239                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1981 No. 8

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you requested our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does a district justice court have the authority, under RCW 6.32.010 and 6.32.015, to order examination of judgment debtors personally or by written interrogatories?

            We answer the foregoing question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 6.32.010 was most recently amended by § 1, chapter 211, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess.  In order to highlight the basis for our answer to your question, let us set forth that amendment in bill form, as follows:

            "At any time within six years after entry of a judgment for the sum of twenty-five dollars or over ((,and after the return of an execution against property wholly or partially unsatisfied upon proof thereof, by affidavit or other competent written evidence satisfactory to the judge or after issuing of an execution against property and upon proof by the affidavit [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]of a party or otherwise to the satisfaction of the court or a judge thereof, that any judgment debtor has property which he unjustly refuses to apply towards the satisfaction of the judgment))upon application by the judgment creditor, such court or judge may, by an order, require the judgment debtor to appear at a specified time and a place before the judge granting the order, or a referee appointed by him, to answer concerning the same; and the judge to whom application is made under this chapter may, if it is made to appear to him by the affidavit of the judgment creditor, his agent or attorney that there is danger of the debtor absconding, order the sheriff to arrest the debtor and bring him before the judge granting the order.  Upon being brought before the judge he may be ordered to enter into a bond, with sufficient sureties, that he will attend from time to time before the judge or referee, as shall be directed, during the pendency of the proceedings and until the final termination thereof."

            In addition, by § 2 of the same 1971 act, the legislature enacted what is now RCW 6.32.015.  That statute reads, in full, as follows:

            "At any time within ten years, after entry of a judgment for a sum of twenty-five dollars or over, upon application by the judgment creditor, such court or judge may by order served on the judgment debtor require such debtor to answer written interrogatories, under oath, in such form as may be approved by the court.  No such creditor shall be required to proceed under this section nor shall he waive his rights to proceed under RCW 6.32.010 by proceeding under this section."

            The issue raised by your question, obviously, is what is meant by the phrase "such court" in both statutes.  On the face of the statutes, the answer is unclear.  But when the deleted language of RCW 6.32.010, supra, is noted, it becomes apparent, to us, that "such court" in both sections simply means, the court having jurisdiction over the particular case  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] resulting in the judgment‑-to which an application by the judgment creditor is made.  And, of course, that court may be either a superior court or a district court, depending upon the jurisdictional amount with which the particular lawsuit is concerned.  See, Wash. Const., Article IV, §§ 6 and 10 together with RCW 2.08.010 and RCW 3.66.020.

            In addition, further support for our affirmative answer to your question will be found in RCW 3.66.010 which reads, in material part, as follows:

            "The justices of the peace elected in accordance with chapters 3.30 through 3.74 RCW are authorized to hold court as judges of the justice court for the trial . . . to hear, try, and determine the same according to the law, and for that purpose where no special provision is otherwise made by law, such court shall be vested with all the necessary powers which are possessed by courts of record in this state; and all laws of a general nature shall apply to such justice court as far as the same may be applicable and not inconsistent with the provisions of chapters 3.30 through 3.74 RCW. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 6.32.010 and 6.32.015, supra, are among those laws of a general nature.  And there is nothing in the Justice Court Act, now codified in chapters 3.30 through 3.74 RCW, which is inconsistent therewith.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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