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June 16, 1970
Honorable Earl F. Angevine
Mount Vernon, Washington 98273
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 93
Re: Service of Summons & Complaint in
Divorce Actions on Prosecuting
This is in response to your recent inquiry concerning the power of a prosecuting attorney to delegate the responsibility of accepting service of summons and complaints in divorce actions to a county clerk. As you point out, such service is required under the provisions of RCW 26.08.080, which reads in pertinent part as follows:
"Each party to any divorce or annulment action shall serve the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the action is commenced with copies of the summons and complaint and such other papers as may be required by court rule at the time the same are filed in the county clerk's office. . . ."
We, like you, are unable to find any statutes governing the powers of the prosecuting attorney which would authorize a prosecutor to alter the procedures specified in the above‑quoted statute. Consequently, we must answer your question that a prosecuting attorney has no power to require the county clerk to accept service of process in divorce actions on his behalf.
In answering your question in this manner, however, we do not mean to imply that there is anything wrong in the practice which has arisen in many of the counties of this state where the clerk does in fact accept service of process in such actions on behalf of the prosecutor. In many counties the prosecuting attorney has expressly authorized the county clerk to accept service on his behalf under the provisions of the quoted statute. In such counties it is not at all unusual to find that the clerk has been provided with the "acceptance of service" stamp of the prosecuting attorney for just such purpose.
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]] And, as we can find nothing which would permit you to delegate your duty to accept service, we can likewise find nothing which would prohibit you from authorizing another person to accept service on your behalf. Acceptance of service process may be made in one's behalf by his agent. See, 42 Am.Jur. 31, 42, Process §§ 33, 51; 72 C.J.S. 1047, Process §§ 38 (b). The only Washington case that we have been able to discover on the question of validity of service of process on an agent, other than corporation cases, is Lee v. Barnes, 58 Wn.2d 265, 362 P.2d 237 (1961). In that case, the court held that service of process upon an agent appointed for the purpose of receipting for such process was valid service even though the Washington statutes and rules do not expressly authorize this mode of service.
In other words, while certainly you may not compel the clerk to act as your agent for service of this kind of process, we are unable to find any legal reason which would indicate that he could not act as such an agent should be choose to do so.
I trust this information will be of some assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Richard A. Mattsen
Assistant Attorney General