Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1963 No. 3 - January 11, 1963
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS ‑- JUSTICE COURTS ORGANIZED UNDER 1961 JUSTICE COURT ACT ‑- GARNISHMENT FEE ‑- COUNTY LAW LIBRARY FEE.

(1) The two dollar garnishment answer fee required by RCW 12.32.020 is not applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961.     

(2) The one dollar and fifty cent law library fee authorized by RCW 27.24.070 is not applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961.

                                                              - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                 January 11, 1963

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County City Building
Seattle 4, Washington

                                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 3

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested the opinion of this office on two questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) Is the two dollar answer fee required by RCW 12.32.020 applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961?

            (2) Is the one dollar and fifty cent library fee authorized by RCW 27.24.070 applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961?

            We answer both questions in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1):

            During its 1961 session the legislature passed chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (codified in chapters 3.30 to 3.74 RCW).  The new act substantially reorganizes the courts of limited jurisdiction in class AA and class A counties.  Counties of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth class may adopt the new act by a majority vote of the board of county commissioners.  Section 2, chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (cf. RCW 3.30.020).

            Justice courts under the new law are organized on the basis of justice court districts established by districting committees.  Sections 25-30, chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (cf. chapter 3.38 RCW).   [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] However (unless otherwise elected) in counties other than class AA or class A, justice courts will continue to operate under pre‑1961 law; i.e., chapter 11, Laws of 1955 (cf. chapter 3.04 RCW).  See, 36 Wash. Law Rev. 297 at 299.  Under this pre‑1961 law, justice courts are organized by precincts‑-not districts.  RCW 3.04.010 (cf. § 1, chapter 11, Laws of 1955); Manus v. Snohomish County Etc., 44 Wn. (2d) 893, 271 P. (2d) 707 (1954).

            RCW 12.32.020, prescribing the two dollar "answer fee"1/ to which your first question refers, provides as follows:

            "Before the issuance of the writ of garnishment, the plaintiff, or someone in his behalf, shall make application therefor by affidavit, stating the facts authorizing the issuance of the writ, and that he has reason to believe and does believe that the garnishee is indebted to the defendant or that he has in his possession or under his control personal property or effects belonging to the defendant, or that the garnishee is a corporation and that the defendant is the owner of shares of the capital stock thereof, and that the garnishment applied for is not sued out to injure either the defendant or the garnishee, and shall deposit with the justice the sum of two dollars for each garnishee defendant named in the writ.  The justice shall pay to each garnishee defendant, out of the sum so deposited by the plaintiff, the sum of two dollars, upon the filing of his answer, which shall be credited upon any judgment thereafter awarded such garnishee defendant against either the plaintiff or the defendant for costs or attorney's fees.  If no answer shall be filed by the garnishee defendant on or before the return day thereof the said sum shall be returned to the plaintiff.  If the plaintiff shall thereafter recover costs against the garnishee defendant, said sum shall be added thereto.  If said sum is applied on a judgment of the garnishee defendant against the defendant it shall be taxed as costs against the defendant and in favor of the plaintiff."

            This section codifies § 2, chapter 160, Laws of 1909, as amended, commonly known as the justice court garnishment act.  State ex rel. Spokane Etc. Branch v. Justice Ct., 189 Wash. 87, 63 P. (2d) 937 (1937).  Section 1, of this 1909 act (cf. RCW 12.32.010) provides as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "The justice of the peace in the various precincts in the state may issue writs of garnishment, returnable to their respective courts, where the plaintiff sues for a debt and makes affidavit that such debt is just, due and unpaid, and that the garnishment applied for is not sued out to injure either the defendant or the garnishee."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            On the other hand, the authority of "new" justice courts organized and operating on the basis ofdistricts under chapter 299, Laws of 1961, to issue writs of garnishments is to be found in § 113, chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (cf. RCW 3.66.030 (8)).  Accordingly, it is to be seen that the "new" justice courts are not governed by the 1909 garnishment act (chapter 160, Laws of 1909, supra).

            Thus it follows that the provisions of this garnishment act (including § 2, chapter 160, Laws of 1909, as amended, cf. RCW 12.32.020, supra), have no bearing on the garnishment jurisdiction of justice courts operating under chapter 299, Laws of 1961.2/

             Question (2):

            Question (2) is whether the one dollar and fifty cent library fee authorized by RCW 27.24.070 is applicable to justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961.

            RCW 27.24.070 codifies § 9, chapter 304, Laws of 1961, which provides as follows:

            "In each county pursuant to this chapter, the clerk of the superior court shall pay from each  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] fee collected for the filing in his office of every new probate or civil matter, including appeals, abstracts or transcripts of judgments, the sum of three dollars for the support of the law library in that county, which shall be paid to the county treasurer to be credited to the county law library fund.  There shall be paid to each justice of the peace in every civil action commenced in such court where the demand or value of the property in controversy is one hundred dollars or more, in addition to the other fees required by law the sum of one dollar and fifty cents as fees for the support of the law library in that county which are to be taxed as part of costs in each case:

            "(1) By each person instituting an action, when the first paper is filed:

            "(2) By each defendant, other adverse party, or intervenor, appearing separately when his appearance is entered on his first paper filed.

            "The justice of the peace shall pay such fees so collected to county treasurer to be credited to the county law library fund."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            However, (as noted in footnote 2 above) § 110 of the "new" justice court act provides:

            "In any civil action commenced before or transferred to a justice court, the plaintiff shall, at the time of such commencement or transfer, pay to such court the sum of four dollars,which sum shall be all the fees and charges which any party to such action shall be compelled to pay to the court up to and including the rendition of judgment in such action:  Provided, That if process in replevin, attachment, or garnishment shall issue therein, the party procuring such process shall pay to such court an additional sum of one dollar for each such process as the fees and charges of the court incident to the proceedings."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            We are thus faced with a situation where two statutes apparently conflict.  RCW 3.62.060,supra, limits the fees in the "new" justice courts to four dollars (with the exception set forth in the proviso thereto).  But, RCW 27.24.070,supra, adds a one dollar and fifty cent fee, when the demand or value of the property in controversy is one hundred dollars or more, in addition to the other fees required by law.

            We must therefore read these two statutes together to find the intent of the legislature.  Upon such a reading it becomes immediately apparent that to characterize § 9, chapter 304, Laws of 1961, (cf. RCW 27.24.070) as being applicable to the "new" justice courts is to say that said chapter 304 amends by implication the provisions of § 110, chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (cf. RCW 3.62.060),supra.

            It is a general rule of statutory construction that repeals or amendments by implication are not favored.  Generaux v. Petit, 172 Wash. 132, 19 P. (2d) 911 (1933).

            ". . . where there are provisions relating to the same subject matter embodied in different statutes, they should be harmonized so as to maintain the integrity of both whenever it is possible."

            State ex rel. Shomaker v. Superior Court, 193 Wash. 465, 475, 76 P. (2d) 306 (1938); see, also,State v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681, 203 P. (2d) 693 (1949); andLindsey v. Superior Court, 33 Wn. (2d) 94, 204 P. (2d) 482 (1949).

            Using this rule of statutory construction as a guide, we believe that the integrity of the twoapparently conflicting statutes can be maintained under the following analysis.

            When chapter 299, Laws of 1961, goes into operation on January 14, 1963, this state will have two different sets of justice courts‑- those operating under chapter 3.04 RCW and those operating under chapters 3.30 to 3.74 RCW (codifying chapter 299, Laws of 1961) discussed earlier in this opinion.  When the legislature adopted chapter 304, Laws of 1961, no mention was made of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, supra.  Accordingly, the two statutes may be harmonized by concluding that the county law library fee authorized by RCW 27.24.070, supra, applies only to justice courts organized under chapter 3.04 RCW, and not to justice courts organized under chapters 3.30 to 3.74 RCW (the latter being expressly limited by § 110, chapter 299, Laws of 1961, to a single four dollar filing fee).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

MIKE JOHNSTON
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See legislative title, chapter 109, Laws of 1931.

2/As a matter of fact, as it will be examined more closely later in this opinion, the "new" justice court act contains its own provision regarding fees and charges.  See § 110, chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (cf. RCW 3.62.060) which provides:

            "In any civil action commenced before or transferred to a justice court, the plaintiff shall, at the time of such commencement or transfer, pay to such court the sum of four dollars,which sum shall be all the fees and charges which any party to such action shall be compelled to pay to the court up to and including the rendition of judgment in such action:  PROVIDED, That if process in replevin, attachment, or garnishment shall issue therein, the party procuring such process shall pay to such courtan additional sum of one dollar for each such process as the fees and charges of the court incident to the proceedings."  (Emphasis supplied.)

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo