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AGO 1963 No. 10 - January 31, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS ‑- JUSTICE COURTS ‑- 1961 ACT ‑- DISBURSEMENT OF RECEIPTS ‑- COSTS CHARGEABLE TO COUNTY ‑- DEPRECIATION AND AMORTIZATION SCHEDULE FOR CAPITAL OUTLAY OTHER THAN COURTROOM SPACE.

1. The phrase "cost of providing courtroom or other space" as used in RCW 3.62.050 does not include the cost of providing all of the items enumerated in RCW 3.58.050.

2. Same:  RCW 3.62.050 does not expressly or by necessary implication distinguish between the cost of space provided in county facilities and space provided by contract elsewhere.

3. In computing the cost of providing justice court facilities other than space, for the purpose of apportioning such cost among governmental units, a county may depreciate items which are classified as capital outlay and amortize its costs, (in accordance with a schedule prescribed by the state auditor (RCW 43.09.200)) so as to be reimbursed over a period of time.

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                                                                 January 31, 1963

Honorable Cliff Yelle
State Auditor
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 10

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on certain questions involving the new (1961) justice court act (chapters 3.30 ‑ 3.74 RCW).  Specifically, you have expressed concern regarding the meaning of RCW 3.62.050, relating to quarterly disbursements of justice court receipts.  We paraphrase your questions as follows:

            1. Does the phrase "cost of providing courtroom or other space"1/include the cost of providing all of the facilities enumerated in RCW 3.58.050?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2. Would the answer be different if the space were rented from an outside source, instead of being provided in existing county facilities?

            3. In computing the cost of providing justice court facilities other than space, for the purpose of apportioning such cost among governmental units, may a county depreciate items which are generally classified as capital outlay and amortize such costs so as to be reimbursed over a period of time?

            We answer your first and second questions in the negative and your third question in the affirmative as qualified in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Allfees collected by a justice court operating under the new justice court act,2/ except fees collected by a municipal department of a justice court (RCW 3.46.120) are to be remitted to the county treasurer to be credited to the county current expense fund.  RCW 3.62.030.  Costs, fines, forfeitures and penalties assessed and collected by justice courts because of violations of city ordinances are to be remitted to the treasurer of the city wherein the violation occurred.  RCW 3.62.040.  All other fines, forfeitures and penalties assessed and collected by justice courts are to be remitted at least monthly to the county treasurer together with a financial statement noting the information necessary for crediting of such funds as required by law (i.e., including credits to various special funds or funds of other governmental units entitled to portions of fines, forfeitures and penalties assessed for specific violations).  RCW 3.62.020.

            With regard to the disbursement of justice court receipts thus paid over to the county treasurer (either as fees creditable to the current expense or salary fund, or as fines, forfeitures and penalties creditable to special funds and/or other governmental units), RCW 3.62.050 (the section to which your specific question is directed) provides as follows:

            "Quarterly, the county treasurer shall determine the difference between the amount deposited to the current expense or salary fund by each justice court and the total expenditures of each justice court:  Provided, Thatthe cost of providing courtroom or other space shall not be included in such total expenditures  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]for the purposes of this section.  The treasurer shall then charge each governmental unit fund entitled to share in the receipts of the court its proportionate share of such unreimbursed difference of expenditures incurred during the quarter and make the appropriate treasurer's remittance to the current expense or salary fund.  The proportionate share charged against each fund shall be determined by the relationship between the unreimbursed expenditures and the total credits of the court to each fund as required by RCW 3.62.020.  Balances remaining in governmental funds shall then be remitted as provided by law."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In other words, before disbursing any amounts to the various special funds or governmental units entitled to share in receipts of a justice court, the county treasurer is to charge each governmental unit fund with its proportionate share of any "unreimbursed difference"; i.e., the difference between receipts creditable to the current expense or salary funds and total justice court expenditures.  However, for purposes of this computation the "cost of providing courtroom or other space" is not to be considered a justice court expenditure.

            We next turn to RCW 3.58.050, which provides:

            "The county commissioners shall furnish all necessary facilities for the justice courts, including suitable courtrooms, furniture, books, stationery, postage, office equipment, heat, light and telephone:  Provided, That the county commissioners shall not be required to furnish courtroom space in any place other than as provided in the districting plan."

            Against this background, your first question is rephrased as follows:

            Does the cost of providing courtroom or other space (which cost, under RCW 3.62.050,supra, is not to be included in calculating the total expenditures of justice courts for purposes of determining the "unreimbursed difference" to be borne by funds of each of the governmental units entitled to share in justice court receipts) include the cost of providing all of the facilities enumerated in RCW 3.58.050,supra?

            In our opinion, the term "courtroom or other space" as used in RCW  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] 3.62.050,supra, does not include all of the "necessary facilities" listed in RCW 3.58.050, supra.  Rather, the phrase "courtroom or other space," as we view it, means only the bare courtroom itselfwithout furniture, books, stationery, postage, office equipment, heat, light and telephone (i.e., the other facilities to be initially furnished by the county commissioners under RCW 3.58.050, supra).

            In thus concluding, we make use of certain well-established principles of statutory construction.  A fundamental rule is that provisos such as that with which we are instantly concerned are to be strictly construed.  Tabb v. Funk, 170 Wash. 545, 17 P. (2d) 18 (1932); accord:  Insurance Co. N. Am. Co. v. Sullivan, 56 Wn. (2d) 251, 352 P. (2d) 193 (1960), and cases cited therein.

            InSackman v. Thomas, 24 Wash. 660, 64 Pac. 819 (1901), as quoted inTabb v. Funk, supra, it was said:

            ". . . a proviso carves special exceptions only out of the enacting clause, and those who set up any such exception must establish it as being within the words, as well as within the reason, thereof."

            Thus it follows that nothing is to be read into the phrase "courtroom or other space" by implication.  To read the phrase "courtroom or other space" as including "furniture, books, stationery, postage, office equipment, heat, light and telephone" would be to broaden the meaning of the phrase by implication.

            A second rule of construction which we deem to be applicable is that in construing a statute, the whole act must be considered together and each word, phrase, clause and sentence must be considered with reference to the other words, phrases, clauses and sentences appearing in the statute.  State ex rel. Port of Seattle v. Dept. P. S., 1 Wn. (2d) 102, 95 P. (2d) 1007 (1939), and authorities cited therein.  Thus, RCW 3.62.050,supra, to the extent that it provides for exclusion of the cost of providing courtroom or other space from total justice court expenditures, is not to be read by itself but rather is to be read in conjunction with RCW 3.58.050, supra.  The latter statute does not provide merely that the county commissioners shall furnish courtroom or other space for justice courts.  Rather, it requires that the county commissioners furnish all necessary facilities for the justice courts, including, in addition to suitable courtrooms, furniture, books, stationery, postage, office equipment, heat, light and telephone.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            A third rule of construction which, after reading RCW 3.62.050,supra, and RCW 3.58.050,supra, together seems particularly pertinent is the rule expressed in the Latin phrase "expressio unius est exclusio alterius."  That is to say, in construing statutes the mention of one thing implies the exclusion of another thing.  State ex rel. Port of Seattle v. Dept. P. S., supra.  Numberless other cases could be cited in support of this basic rule.

            By way of application of the rule to the instant matter, we reason that the legislature, having listed a number of items to be furnished by the county commissioners under RCW 3.58.050, supra, including, but not limited to "suitable courtrooms," and having then set forth only "the cost of providing courtroom or other space" as a costnot to be included in determining total expenditures for the purposes of RCW 3.62.050, supra, must have intended to exclude the costs of all of the facilities described in RCW 3.58.050,supra, other than the courtroom itself from the scope of the proviso.  Had the legislature intended that the costs of these various other facilities also not be included in the total expenditures of justice courts for purposes of making the calculation provided for in RCW 3.62.050, supra, it could easily have expressed this intent by repeating the more inclusive phraseology of RCW 3.58.050, supra, or (even more simply) by simply making a reference thereto.

            It did not do so.  Consequently, for this reason and as well as for the reason that provisos are to be given a strict construction, we conclude, as above stated, that the cost of providing courtroom or other space (which cost is not to be included in calculating the total expenditures of justice courts for the purposes of RCW 3.62.050,supra) does not include the cost of providingall of the facilities enumerated in RCW 3.58.050, supra.  Rather, it includes only the cost of providing the courtroom space itself exclusive of furniture, books, stationery, postage, office equipment, heat, light and telephone.

            We answer your second question in the negative.  The statute (RCW 3.62.050,supra) makes no express differentiation between the cost of space provided in county facilities and space provided by contract elsewhere; nor do we find any clear reason in any language of the statute for finding such a distinction by implication.

            As to your third question, the problem as we see it is a very practical problem and the proposed solution is both practical and legal.  Basically, the problem arises because in providing initially facilities for justices of the peace taking office under the act, or at any other time when capital outlay costs are high, the revenues of a particular court in a particular quarter may not be sufficient to offset such costs.  The ultimate question, then, is whether or not the county must bear this resulting deficit, or whether it can spread the costs  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] over several quarters and charge it against the appropriate governmental units out of revenues in such successive quarters.  The former result is directly contrary to the expressed purpose of the statute, while the latter result is, we believe, manifestly consistent with it.  Of course, it is fundamental that in construing a statute of doubtful meaning, the statute should be considered in its entirety, and it should be read together with other statutes on the same subject.  See,State v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681, 203 P. (2d) 693 (1949).  RCW 3.62.050,supra, requires a proportionate share of the "unreimbursed difference of expenditures incurred during the quarter" to be charged against "each governmental unit fund entitled to share in the receipts of the court."  These "governmental unit" funds are obviously suspense accounts of the funds consisting of fines, forfeitures and penalties held in the county treasury pending remittance to the funds or agencies entitled to receive them.  That meaning is made clear by reference to a number of sources.  For instance, the last sentence of RCW 3.62.050, supra, provides that:

            ". . . Balances remaining in governmental funds shall then be remitted as provided by law."

            The meaning of the statute becomes clear then only by reference to that sentence and also such other statutory sources as RCW 46.68.050, which provides as follows:

            "All fines and forfeitures collected for violation of any of the provisions of this title when the violation occurred outside of any incorporated city or town shall be distributed and paid into the proper funds for the following purposes: One‑half shall be paid into the county road fund of the county in which the violation occurred; one‑fourth into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund.

            "All fines and forfeitures collected for the violation of any of the provisions of this title when the violation occurred inside any incorporated city or town shall be distributed and paid into the proper funds for the following purposes: One‑half shall be paid into the city street fund for the construction and maintenance of city streets; one‑fourth  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] into the state fund for the support of state parks and parkways; and one‑fourth into the highway safety fund."

            According to these statutory provisions, then, the "governmental unit" mentioned in RCW 3.62.050,supra, consists of those temporary accounts in the county treasury, in the nature of suspense funds, in which those portions of fines, forfeitures and penalties destined for remittance to other agencies are kept, pending remittance.  Such interpretation, we are informed, would harmonize with existing fiscal practices of long standing.  Thus, the statute directs liability to be fastened against particular accounts in the treasury; not merely to be satisfied out of particular "funds" on hand in a given quarter.

            Under that interpretation it would not be at all inconsistent with the remaining language and the purpose of RCW 3.62.050, supra, to treat the proportionate share of the "unreimbursed difference" as a continuing charge against the "governmental unit fund" until paid, even if the payment period covers two or more quarters.  In our opinion this may be accomplished simply by treating the "unreimbursed difference" in a given quarter as a single charge payable over as long a period as may be required (utilizing all available moneys in the applicable suspense funds as they accrue).  In the alternative it would be proper for the state auditor to prescribe a system of accounting under RCW 43.09.200, which would allow a depreciation and amortization schedule for the capital outlay costs3/ producing such a result.

            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/Under RCW 3.62.050, supra, such cost is not to be included in calculating the total expenditures of justice courts for purposes of determining the "unreimbursed difference" to be borne by funds of each of the governmental units entitled to share in justice court receipts.

2/Chapter 299, Laws of 1961, codified as chapters 3.30 through 3.74 RCW.

3/By "Capital outlay" we mean the term as it is ordinarily defined and used in county budget laws.  See, RCW 36.40.040 and 36.40.220.

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