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October 22, 1971
Honorable Earl F. Angevine
Court House Annex
Mount Vernon, Washington 98273 Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 122 (not official)
By letter dated October 21, 1971, you have directed our attention to the apparently conflicting provisions of RCW 10.04.080 and JCrR 4.02.
RCW 10.04.080 codifies the provisions of § 4, chapter 11, Laws of 1891, and provides as follows:
"No justice shall assess a fine, or enter a judgment thereon, until a witness or witnesses have been examined to state the circumstances of the transaction."
JCrR 4.02 is one of the criminal rules for justice courts which have been promulgated by the Washington Supreme Court, and provides as follows:
"If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge may, if he wishes or if he has any doubts as to the plea, examine a witness or witnesses concerning the circumstances of the charge. If he is satisfied, either with or without the examination of witnesses, that the defendant is guilty, the judge shall assess the punishment and enter judgment accordingly. If, after an examination of a witness or witnesses, he is not satisfied as to the guilt of the defendant, he may, in his discretion, refuse to accept the plea and enter a plea of not guilty."
Quite clearly, there is a conflict between the statute and the rule, for the statute has very definitely been construed by the court to require the taking of evidence by a justice court judge prior to the entry of judgment, even in the case of a guilty plea. See, State v. Johnson, 156 Wash. 348, 286 Pac. 844 (1930); and State v. Collins, 116 Wash. 363, 199 Pac. 745 (1921).
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However, it seems equally clear to us that, to the extent of this conflict, the rule supersedes the statute. See, RCW 2.04.190 and 2.04.200, the first of which expressly authorizes the Supreme Court to promulgate rules of procedure governing the supreme court itself, superior courts and justices of the peace of the state, and the second of which provides as follows:
"When and as the rules of courts herein authorized shall be promulgated all laws in conflict therewith shall be and become of no further force or effect."
We further note that the constitutionality of this rule‑making power has been sustained in numerous cases, the most often cited one of which is State ex rel. Foster-Wyman Lum. Co. v. Superior Court, 148 Wash. 1, 267 Pac. 770 (1928). Therefore, in direct answer to your question, it is our opinion that a judge of a district court should be guided by the provisions of JCrR 4.02, supra, rather than those of RCW 10.04.080, to the extent of conflict, in any case coming within the purview of the rule.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General