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AGLO 1975 No. 10 - February 03, 1975
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS ‑- JUSTICE ‑- COUNTIES ‑- CITIES ‑- LEAVE OF ABSENCE ‑- SICK LEAVE ‑- PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION

Although a city which has established a department of a district justice court under chapter 3.46 RCW is required by RCW 3.46.090 to pay all or a portion of the district judge's salary, such city is not required to pay any portion of the county's terminal leave benefits to the judge upon his retirement.

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                                                                 February 3, 1975

Honorable John C. Merkel
Prosecuting Attorney
Kitsap County Court House
614 Division Street
Port Orchard, Washington 98366                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 10

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have asked for our opinion on the following question:

            "When a District Court Judge is entitled to be paid accumulated sick leave upon retirement pursuant to Kitsap County sick leave provisions and when such a judge is also an RCW Chapter 3.46 [[chapter 3.46 RCW]]Judge of the Bremerton Municipal Court, a department of such District Court, wth his time and salary allocated 65% for the Municipal Court and 35% for the District Court, is the city obligated to pay 65% of the 'county' sick leave retirement benefit as 'salary' pursuant to RCW 3.46.090?"

            We believe that this question is answerable in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            By way of background for your question you have advised us that Kitsap county has established a district justice court system under the provisions of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, as amended, and that the city of Bremerton has opted, under the provisions of chapter 3.46 RCW, to establish a municipal department within one of the resulting two district justice courts in the county.

            The two statutes which are thus pertinent to your inquiry are RCW 3.34.100 and RCW 3.46.090.  The first of these two statutes, which applies to all district court judges (therein referred to as justices of the peace) simply provides, insofar as is here material, that:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] ". . .  Justices of peace shall be granted sick leave in the same manner as other county employees."

            RCW 3.46.090, which is applicable only in those instances in which a city has established a municipal department of a district justice court, deals with the apportionment of certain costs between the city and the county and provides that:

            "The salary of a full time municipal judge shall be paid wholly by the city.  The salary of a justice of the peace serving a municipal department part time shall be paid jointly by the county and the city in the same proportion as the time of the justice has been allocated to each.  Salaries of court commissioners serving the municipal department shall be paid by the city."

            You have advised us that pursuant to this statute, an agreement has been entered into between the city of Bremerton and Kitsap county under which the city has assumed responsibility for the payment of 65% of the subject district court judge's salary in return for an undertaking by the county that the judge will allocate the same 65% of his total judicial time to the city.

            And lastly, you have indicated that the sick leave policy of Kitsap county, for its employees, is as follows:

            "'Sick leave with pay shall accumulate at the rate of one and one‑half (1 1/2) days for each full month of employment.  Such leave as is not used up shall accumulate up to one hundred fifty days (150) of sick leave . . .'

            "'. . .  Upon retirement, the employee will receive payment for fifty percent (50%) of all accumulated sick leave.'"1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]   Your question is whether the city of Bremerton, by reason of its commitment to pay 65% of the subject judge's salary, is also obligated to pay an amount equal to 65% of the "county" sick leave retirement benefit which the county has thus provided for.

            While we have no doubt that this benefit is a form of "compensation," it does not appear to us that it can properly be said to be a part of the district court judge'ssalary as that term is used in RCW 3.46.090,supra.  Instead, we would view that term in the context in which it there appears to be a reference only to the statutory salary for district court judges which is fixed (in the case of full time judges) by another section of this justice court act, RCW 3.58.010, as follows:

            "The annual salary of each full time justice of the peace shall be twenty-three thousand two hundred and fifty dollars:  Provided, That in cities having a population in excess of five hundred thousand, the city which pays the salary may increase such salary of its municipal judges to an amount not more than the salary paid the superior court judges in the county in which the court is located: . . ."

            See, also, RCW 3.58.020 with respect to the salaries of part time justices.

            As our court has often said, language within a statute must be read in context with the entire statute and construed in a manner consistent with the general purposes of the statute.  See, e.g.,Nationwide Papers v. NW Egg Sales, 69 Wn.2d 72, 416 P.2d 687 (1966), and cases cited therein.  Thus, even though such terminal leave payments as these here in question have been viewed as being included within a public employee's "compensation earnable" as that term is defined for the purposes of the public employees' retirement law by RCW 41.40.010,2/ it does not follow that those payments must also be treated as "salary" under the section of the justice court act with which we are here concerned.  In so far as that  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] section is concerned, we must seek to harmonize it with the other sections of the same act in which the word "salary" is used, RCW 3.58.010 and 3.58.020,supra.

            In our opinion, therefore, the obligation of the city of Bremerton under the facts you have given to us is to pay 65% of this statutory "salary" only.  The county sick leave benefit you have described, on the other hand, appears to us to constitute an exclusive obligation of the county itself as a form of additional compensation, but not as a part of the judge's "salary" within the meaning of RCW 3.46.090.

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

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Kitsap County Resolution No. 65-1974; accord, AGO 63-64 No. 97 [[to Cliff Yelle, State Auditor on April 8, 1964]], copy enclosed, in which we advised that:

            "Counties and other cities and towns, but not school districts, have the authority to adopt by ordinance or contract provisions a plan granting severance pay to their employees for accrued sick leave in consideration of services to be performed by the employeeafter the ordinance is adopted or contract is executed."

2/I.e.,

            ". . . salaries or wages earned during a payroll period for personal services and where the compensation is not all paid in money maintenance compensation shall be included upon the basis of the schedules established by the member's employer."

            Accord, opinion dated May 15, 1972, to the Grant county prosecuting attorney [[to Paul Klasen an Informal Opinion, AIR-72539]], copy enclosed.

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