Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1963 No. 57 - October 18, 1963
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑ STATE ‑ BOARD OF PRISON TERMS AND PAROLES ‑ AUTHORITY TO CHANGE DESIGNATION OF STATE PAROLE AND PROBATION OFFICERS TO PAROLE BOARD AGENTS.

The board of prison terms and paroles is without statutory authority to change the titles of parole and probation officers to parole board agents.

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

                                                              September 18, 1963

Honorable Wes C. Uhlman
State Representative, 32nd District
2315 North 40th
Seattle 3, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 57

Dear Sir:

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

            Does the board of prison terms and paroles have the authority to change the titles of "state parole and probation officers," as they are designated in RCW 9.95.250, to that of "parole board agents"?

            We answer your inquiry in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            You have enclosed with your letter a copy of the memorandum directed to all supervisors and parole officers issued by the chief parole and probation officer of the board of prison terms and paroles.  The subject of this memorandum as noted thereon is "Title Changes" and in the body of the memorandum there appears the following language:

            "As announced at recent Area Meetings, the Board has decided on a number of changes in working titles of field staff.  The title changes will take effect Monday, May 6, and are as follows:"

            In so far as pertinent to your inquiry the foregoing statement is followed by a listing of the present titles of the parole and probation officers and adjacent thereto is a listing of the proposed new title designations which are principally parole board agents of various classifications.  Under this enumeration is found the following  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] language:

            "Changes on calling cards, stationary [[stationary]]and so forth will be made as new supplies are ordered.  It will not be necessary for office signs changed at this time.

            "Would you please instruct the clerical staff to begin using these new designations on May 6."

            We have verified the authenticity of the memorandum which you enclose and, in addition, have conferred with the Chairman of the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles, Mr. Harris Hunter, and he advises that the memorandum was issued pursuant to a memorandum rendered by himself to the chief parole and probation officer after a majority of the board had determined that such changes should be effectuated.

            RCW 9.95.250 provides:

            "In order to carry out the provisions of this chapter the state parole officers working under the supervision of the board of prison terms and parolesshall be known as state parole and probation officers."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The language employed by the legislature is clear, precise and unambiguous in its terms and upon a search of the laws relating to the board of prison terms and paroles, we do not find a statute specifically or impliedly granting to the board the authority to make a change in the designation of titles of "state parole and probation officers."

            It is fundamental that where the language employed by the legislature is clear and free from ambiguity, the rules of statutory construction and interpretation are not applicable.  In re Baker's Estate, 49 Wn.2d 609, 304 P.2d 1051 (1956); State ex rel. Evans v. Brotherhood Etc., 41 Wn.2d 133, 247 P.2d 787 (1952).

            The legislature of course has the power to designate the legal title of the parole officers under the supervision of the board of prison terms and paroles as "state parole and probation officers."  Until such time as the legislature, by an appropriate enactment, gives authority to the board of prison terms and paroles to make a change  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] in the official title, the board is without authority to make such change administratively.

            Accordingly, we are of the opinion that the board of prison terms and paroles is without statutory authority to change the titles of the parole officers under its supervision from "state parole and probation officers" to "parole board agents."

            We trust the forgoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

STEPHEN C. WAY
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo