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AGLO 1981 No. 21 - July 30, 1981
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS ‑- SUPERIOR ‑- COUNTIES ‑- COMPOSITION OF CERTAIN JUDICIAL DISTRICT

The failure of Pend Oreille to have approved the additional judicial position for Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties, jointly, which was conditionally provided for by chapter 65, Laws of 1981, does not mean that Ferry County is to continue to be treated as part of a judicial district with Okanogan County.

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                                                                    July 30, 1981

Honorable Howard S. Primer
Administrator for the Courts
Temple of Justice
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1981 No. 21

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you requested our opinion on a question relating to the current effectiveness of the 1981 legislature's realignment of judicial district boundaries in the area consisting of Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties.  We paraphrase your question as follows:

            Does the failure of Pend Oreille to have approved the additional judicial position for Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties, jointly, which was conditionally provided for by chapter 65, Laws of 1981, mean that Ferry County is to continue to be treated as part of a judicial district with Okanogan County?

            We answer the foregoing question in the negative.

 [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Chapter 65, Laws of 1981, which became effective on July 27, 1981, relates to superior court judges in several Eastern Washington counties, including Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille.  We will here begin by setting forth, in full, the text of §§ 2 and 3 of that act for ease of reference.

            First, by § 2, chapter 65, supra, the legislature amended RCW 2.08.065 as follows:

            "There shall be in the county of Grant, two judges of the superior court; in the ((counties))county of ((Ferry and)) Okanogan ((jointly)), one judge of the superior court; in the counties of Mason and Thurston jointly, five judges of the superior court; in the counties of Pacific and Wahkiakum jointly, one judge of the superior court; in the counties ofFerry, Pend Oreille, and Stevens jointly, ((one)) two judges of the superior court; and in the counties of San Juan and Island jointly, two judges of the superior court."

            Then, by § 3, the legislature provided as follows:

            "The additional judicial positions created by this 1981 act in the joint Benton and Franklin judicial district and the joint Ferry, Stevens, and Pend Oreille judicial district shall be effective only if, prior to the effective date of this act, each county in the respective judicial districts through its duly constituted legislative authority documents its approval of the additional positions and its agreement that it and the other counties comprising the judicial district will pay out of county funds, without reimbursement from the state, the same portion of expenses of such additional judicial positions which the judicial district as a whole provides for positions existing prior to the effective date  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] of this act.  The amount of funds to be paid by each county is to be determined among the counties comprising each judicial district."

            In response to the foregoing, you have advised us that insofar as the additional position for Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens Counties is concerned, the county commissioners of Ferry and Stevens Counties have approved (as contemplated by § 3,supra) but the commissioners of Pend Oreille County have thus far declined to do so.

            Clearly, as we have previously advised the Secretary of State's Office, informally, this means that the additional judgeship for Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties is not yet effective.  For, by the express terms of the legislative enactment, that "second" position is only to become effective when the duly constituted legislative authorities of each of the three counties have affirmatively reacted.

            Conversely, however, the realignment of judicial district boundaries as related to those same four counties, which is also provided for by § 2, chapter 65,supra, was not declared by the legislature to be contingent upon local approval or authorization.  Instead, the judicial district realignment aspect of the law is unqualified in that or any other respect.

            We therefore answer your question, as above stated, in the negative and trust that you will find the foregoing to be of some assistance.

Very truly yours,

KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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