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February 19, 1971
Honorable Thomas A. Swayze, Jr.
Speaker, House of Representatives
Olympia, Washington 98501
Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 28 (not official)
By letter dated February 15, 1971, you submitted to this office the following opinion request:
"Request is hereby made for an opinion as to whether or not the Sergeant-of-Arms of the House of Representatives and other security personnel are immune from Civil Suit for actions done within the scope of employment. Specifically: Are they covered by RCW 4.92.060, 4.92.070 wherein the Attorney General shall appear and defend under certain circumstances?"
The two sections of chapter 4.92 RCW which you have cited read as follows:
"Whenever an action or proceeding for damages shall be instituted against any state officer or employee for the performance of any official act, such officer or employee may request the administrative board to authorize the defense of said action or proceeding at the expense of the state."
"If the administrative board shall find that said officer or employee acted in good faith and without negligence, it shall grant said request, in which event the necessary expenses of the defense of said action or proceeding shall be paid from the appropriations made for the support of the department to which such officer or employee is attached. In such cases the attorney general shall appear and defend such officer or employee."
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
Of course, nothing contained in either of these two statutes purports to grant immunity from civil liability to any state officers or employees ‑ in the sense that their "scope of employment" could be invoked as any sort of an affirmative defense to an action for damages against an individual officer or employee arising out of the performance of some official act. Instead, RCW 4.92.060 and 4.92.070 merely establish a procedure whereby the attorney general's office may be called upon to represent and defend the officer or employee who is being sued.
However, with this clarifying explanation of the scope of these statutes in mind, there can be no doubt, in our opinion, that officers and employees of the state legislature would be regarded as state officers or employees within the meaning of these statutes.
We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Deputy Attorney General