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AGLO 1979 No. 34 - October 10, 1979
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- COUNTY ‑- CLERK ‑- JUDGMENTS ‑- TIMELINESS OF APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF EXECUTION

RCW 4.56.210, as amended by § 1, chapter 236, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess., does not authorize a superior court clerk to issue a writ of execution on a civil judgment more than six years, but less than ten years, after the rendition thereof; instead, that issue remains governed by the provisions of RCW 6.04.010.

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                                                                October 10, 1979

Honorable Norm Maleng
Prosecuting Attorney
King County Courthouse
516 Third Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1979 No. 34

Dear Sir:

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

            Does § 1, chapter 236, Laws of 1979, 1st Ex. Sess., amending RCW 4.56.210, authorize a superior court clerk to issue a writ of execution on a civil judgment more than six years, but less than ten years, after the rendition thereof?

            We answer this question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The execution of civil judgments is covered by Title 6 RCW.  The particular section thereof which is pertinent to your inquiry is RCW 6.04.010 which reads, in material part, as follows:

            "The party in whose favor a judgment of a court of record of this state has been, or may hereafter be, rendered, or his assignee, may have an execution issued for the collection or enforcement of the same, at any time withinsix years from the rendition thereof: . . ."  (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Chapter 4.56 RCW also deals with civil judgments.  Prior to its amendment by § 1, chapter 236, Laws of 1979 1st Ex. Sess., RCW 4.56.210 provided, with one stated exception, that after the expiration of six years from the date of entry of such a judgment it would cease to be a lien or charge against the estate or person of the judgment debtor.  As amended, however, RCW 4.56.210 (here set forth in bill form for ease of comprehension) now reads as follows:

            "After the expiration of ((six)) ten years from the date of the entry of any judgment heretofore or hereafter rendered in this state, it shall cease to be a lien or charge against the estate or person of the judgment debtor, and no suit, action or other proceeding shall ever be had on any judgment rendered in this state by which the lien or duration of such judgment, claim or demand, shall be extended or continued in force for any greater or longer period than ((six))ten years from the date of the entry of the original judgment ((, except as in RCW 4.56.225 provided))."

            In addition, by § 2, chapter 236, supra, the legislature repealed RCW 4.56.225 which previously provided for the revival of certain judgments under specified circumstances.

            Conversely, neither chapter 236, supra, nor any other act of the 1979 Legislature, expressly amended the provisions of RCW 6.04.010, supra.  Thus, on its face, that statute still specifies a six-year period, rather than a ten-year period, for the issuance of a writ of execution on a civil judgment.  Your question, in essence, is whether, nonetheless, RCW 6.04.010 must be deemed to have been impliedly amended as a result of the legislature's express amendment of RCW 4.56.210, supra.

            The rules governing the amendment of statutes by implication are well established.  Such amendments are, to say the least, not favored and should be indulged in only where the implication is a necessary one; i.e., where, otherwise, an earlier act would be irreconcilably inconsistent with the later act.  Buell v. McGee, 9 Wn.2d 84, 113 P.2d 522 (1941); State ex rel. Dept. F. B. & B. v. Thurston Co., 6 Wn.2d 633, 108 P.2d 828 (1940); and Bruner v. Little, 97 Wash. 319, 166 Pac. 1166 (1917).

            Likewise, inconsistency between statutes on a given subject is never presumed but, instead, such interpretation or construction should be adopted as will harmonize all acts  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] on the same subject if possible.  Ropo, Inc. v. Seattle, 67 Wn.2d 574, 409 P.2d 148 (1965); Kruesel v. Collin, 171 Wash. 200, 17 P.2d 854 (1933); 1 Sutherland Statutory Construction (3d Ed.), 470, § 2015;Lindsey v. Superior Court, 33 Wn.2d 94, 204 P.2d 482 (1949).

            In this case, such a reconciliation of the two statutes involved is clearly possible.  The key will be found in such cases as Weyerhaeuser v. Damewood, 11 Wn. App. 12, 521 P.2d 953 (1974), holding (under the prior language of RCW 4.56.210, supra) that:

            ". . . there can be no valid execution on the judgment unless every act necessary for a complete execution sale (including judicial confirmation of the sale) occurs during that six-year period . . ."

            In fact, it was most probably the court's ruling in that case which prompted the legislature to amend RCW 4.45.210, supra, while, at the same time, leaving RCW 6.04.010,supra, as it was.  Now it is possible for a judgment creditor who has obtained a writ of execution from the superior court clerk within six years following rendition of the judgment to continue to pursue the later steps required for satisfaction against the property of the judgment debtor after the expiration of the same six-year period‑-so long as the judgment creditor is still within the new, ten-year period prescribed by RCW 4.56.210,supra, as amended.  This does not, however, mean that the superior court clerk is currently authorized to issue a writ of execution after six years, but within ten years of the judgment‑-for the governing statute with respect to that action, RCW 6.04.010,supra, says otherwise.

            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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