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April 15, 1970
Honorable Al Henry
State Senator, 17th District
White Salmon, Washington 98672
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 62
Dear Senator Henry:
This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Do the provisions of § 3, chapter 259, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess. (RCW 36.24.175) expressing certain disqualifications for service in the office of county coroner in certain classes of counties, apply to persons serving as deputy county coroners in those counties?
We answer this question in the negative.
The statute which is referred to in your question reads as follows:
"In class AA, class A, first, second and third class counties no person shall be qualified for the office of county coroner as provided for in RCW 36.16.030 who is an owner or employee of any funeral home or mortuary." (Emphasis supplied.)
RCW 36.16.030 to which reference is made in this 1969 act, contains an enumeration of elective county officers, as follows:
"In every county there shall be elected from among the qualified voters of the county a county assessor, a county auditor, a county clerk, a county coroner, three county commissioners, a county prosecuting attorney, a county sheriff and a county treasurer: Provided, That in counties of the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth classes no coroner shall be elected and the prosecuting attorney shall be ex officio coroner: Provided further, That in ninth class counties no county auditor or assessor shall be elected and the county clerk shall be ex officio county auditor, and the county [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] treasurer shall be ex officio county assessor." (Emphasis supplied.)
On the other hand, deputy county coroners, as well as deputies to all other elective county officers enumerated in RCW 36.16.030, supra, hold appointive positions in the manner provided for in RCW 36.16.070, which reads:
"In all cases where the duties of any county office are greater than can be performed by the person elected to fill it, the officer may employ deputies and other necessary employees with the consent of the board of county commissioners. The board shall fix their compensation and shall require what deputies shall give bond and the amount of bond required from each. The sureties on deputies' bonds must be approved by the board and the premium therefor is a county expense.
"A deputy may perform any act which his principal is authorized to perform. The officer appointing a deputy or other employee shall be responsible for the acts of his appointees upon his official bond and may revoke each appointment at pleasure."
Notably, nothing contained in this last quoted statute imposes any requirement that the deputy must, necessarily, possess all of the qualifications of the principal elective officer by whom he is appointed. Moreover, in considering the scope and effect of the legislature's 1969 enactment with respect to the qualifications of coroners in certain counties, supra, it is appropriate to consider and apply the rule expressio unius est exclusio alterius to the situation at hand. This latin maxim means (in terms of statutory construction) that the express mention of one thing in a statute implies exclusion of those things not mentioned. Or, as was stated by the Washington supreme court in the recent case of Washington Natural Gas Co. v. Public Utility District No. 1 of Snohomish County, 77 W.D.2d 90, P.2d. (1969) [[77 Wn.2d 94, 459 P.2d 633]]:
". . . Where a statute specifically designates the things or classes of things upon which it operates, an inference arises in law that all things or classes of things omitted from it were intentionally omitted by the legislature under the maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius ‑ specific inclusions exclude implication. State v. Roadhs, 71 Wn.2d 705, 707, 430 P.2d 586 (1967)."
[[Orig. Op. Page 3]]
Since deputy coroners were not expressly mentioned in § 3, chapter 259, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess., supra, and since there is no requirement in the statute under which they are appointed that they possess all of the qualifications of the county coroner, by whom they are appointed, it follows, in our opinion, that the disqualifying provisions contained in the subject 1969 enactment do not apply to deputy coroners.1/
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/In thus advising you on your question, we should point out to you that another question pertaining to § 3, chapter 259, Laws of 1969, Ex. Sess., is currently being considered by this office; namely, the question of whether the disqualification contained therein is applicable during the remainder of the current terms of office of the subject county coroners who were elected prior to the enactment of the disqualifying statute. We hope to have an opinion ready for issuance on this question in the not too distant future.