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AGLO 1974 No. 2 - January 07, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS ‑- DISTRICT COURT COMMISSIONER ‑- JUSTICE OF THE PEACE ‑- DEFINITION OF "MAGISTRATE"

A district court commissioner, when appointed and vested with the powers of a justice of the peace under chapter 3.42 RCW, comes within the definition of a "magistrate" as set forth in RCW 2.20.010 and 2.20.020.

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                                                                  January 7, 1974

Honorable James P. McNally
Prosecuting Attorney
Pend Oreille County
Newport, Washington 99156                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1974 No. 2

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent letter asking whether a district justice court commissioner, when appointed and vested with the powers of a justice of the peace pursusant to chapter 3.42 RCW, comes within the definition of a "magistrate" as set forth in RCW 2.20.010 and 2.20.020.

            We answer this question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            In your letter you have informed us that Pend Oreille county has just adopted the 1961 justice court act, effective January 1, 1974.  Accord, RCW 3.30.020.  Therefore, that county is now governed, interalia, by the following provisions of RCW 3.42.010:

            "When so authorized by the justice court districting plan, one or more justice court commissioners may be appointed in any justice court district by the justices of the peace of such district.  Each commissioner shall be a registered voter of the county in which the justice court district or a portion thereof is located, and shall hold office during the pleasure of the justices of the peace appointing him."

            Insofar as the powers of such court commissioners are concerned, RCW 3.42.020 provides that:

            "Each justice court commissioner shall have such power, authority and jursidiction in criminal matters as the justices of the peace who appointed him possess and shall prescribe.  Justice court commissioners shall not have power to hear and determine civil matters."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Acting pursuant to this statute you have further informed us that "The newly appointed Justice . . . is issuing an order directing that his Court Commissioner shall have criminal authority to the full extent that he, the Justice, has."  Your question is whether all of this makes the court commissioner a "magistrate" as defined in RCW 2.20.010 and 2.20.020 which provide, respectively, as follows:

            RCW 2.20.010:

            "A magistrate is an officer having power to issue a warrant for the arrest of a person charged with the commission of a crime."

            RCW 2.20.020:

            "The following persons are magistrates:

            "(1) The justices of the supreme court.

            "(2) The judges of the court of appeals.

            "(3) The superior judges, and justices of the peace.

            "(4) All municipal officers authorized to exercise the powers and perform the duties of a justice of the peace."

            These provisions, in turn, bring us back to another portion of the 1961 justice court act; namely, RCW 3.66.100 which states that:

            "Every justice having authority to hear a particular case may issue civil process in and to any place in the county or counties in which his district is located, and criminal process in and to any place in the state."

            When all of these various statutory provisions are taken together, it seems clear to us that a justice court commissioner appointed pursuant to chapter 3.42 RCW, when vested under RCW 3.42.020 with . . . such power, authority and jurisdiction in criminal matters as the justices of the peace who appointed him possess and shall prescribe . . .," comes within the definition of a "magistrate" as set forth in RCW 2.20.010 and 2.20.020,supra.   [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            For this reason, we answer your question, as above stated, in the affirmative.

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

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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