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AGO 1963 No. 60 - September 26, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS ‑- JUSTICE COURTS ‑- ORGANIZED UNDER 1961 JUSTICE COURT ACT ‑- GARNISHMENT FEE ‑- PROCEDURAL RULE 64 ADOPTED BY THE SUPREME COURT FOR COURTS OF LIMITED JURISDICTION.

Rule 64 of the civil rules for courts of limited jurisdiction promulgated by the state supreme court on July 1, 1963, is applicable to all courts of limited jurisdiction inferior to superior courts including those courts organized pursuant to chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (the 1961 justice court act).  Therefore chapter 12.32 RCW should be deemed to govern garnishment actions in all such inferior courts.

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                                                              September 26, 1963

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

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 60

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested that we review a previous opinion of this office, AGO 63-64 No. 3, and determine the effect thereon of Rule 64 of the Civil Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, promulgated by the State Supreme Court on July 1, 1963.

            We conclude that the views expressed in our prior opinion should be deemed modified as a result of JCR 64 to the extent hereinafter set forth.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Question (1) in AGO 63-64 No. 3, dated January 11, 1963 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, King County]], was stated 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?"

            In answer thereto it was concluded that the provisions of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, were not applicable to justice courts organized under that act because RCW 12.32.010 limited the scope of chapter 12.32 RCW to justice courts organized on a precinct (rather than district) basis.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Thereafter, on July 1, 1963, the state supreme court promulgated JCR 64, which provides as follows:

            "Chapter 12.32 of the Revised Code of Washington and Rule of Pleading, Practice and Procedure 96.04W 'Service of copy of writ of garnishment on defendant or judgment debtor' shall continue in full force and effect and shall be fully applicable to garnishmentin courts of limited jurisdiction."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The scope of the civil rules for courts of limited jurisdiction (including JCR 64,supra,) is to be found in Rule J2 of the General Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (161 Wash. Dec. 8A, p. 5), by reference from JCR 1 (161 Wash. Dec. 8A, p. 14) as follows:

            "These rules shall govern the procedure of civil, criminal, and traffic cases inall courts of limited jurisdiction inferior to the superior court. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)

            Accordingly, it seems clear that the phrase in JCR 64, supra, reading "in courts of limited jurisdiction" was intended by the supreme court to include those courts of limited jurisdiction organized pursuant to chapter 299, Laws of 1961.  In other words, it is to be seen that JCR 64 represents an effort by the supreme court to accomplish something that the legislature has not done,1/ i.e., provide a uniform procedure for processing garnishment actions applicable to all courts of limited jurisdiction vested with authority to issue writs of garnishment.

            The supreme court, of course, has power to establish procedural rules applicable to all courts of limited jurisdiction.  When such rules are promulgated, all laws in conflict are abrogated.  State ex rel. Foster-Wyman Lum. Co. v. Sup'r Ct., 148 Wash. 1, 267 Pac. 770 (1928); RCW 2.04.190; RCW 2.04.200.

            JCR 64 clearly conflicts with RCW 12.32.010 to the extent that JCR 64 incorporates all of chapter 12.32 RCW and declares that the provisions contained therein shall be applicable to all courts of limited jurisdiction.  Accordingly, it follows that the portion of RCW 12.32.020 indicating that chapter 12.32 RCW is applicable only to justice courts  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] organized on a precinct basis is abrogated, unless the subject matter is substantive law rather than procedural.

            It is apparent that the court considers the matter to be procedural and properly within the court's rule‑making power.  Otherwise the court would not have promulgated JCR 64 in the form that it did.  The foreword prefacing the new rules is clearly indicative of the court's position in this regard‑-particularly the following quotation at page 2 of 161 Wash. Dec. 8A:

            "We have endeavored to incorporate in one rule book as much of the necessary statutory law (and have given such laws a rule number) relating to jurisdiction, process, arrest, bail, disposition of bail forfeitures, and rules of trial procedure as the judges will need in the determination of most of the causes before them.  To accomplish this purpose, the law was given a rule number.  The statutory law, in most instances, is set out verbatim in the rule.  There is no desire or intention to abrogate the statutes dealing with substantive law, but, rather, to make them readily available."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Therefore, it is the opinion of this office that JCR 64 is applicable to all courts of limited jurisdiction inferior to superior courts including those courts organized pursuant to chapter 299, Laws of 1961.  Consequently, chapter 12.32 RCW should be deemed to govern garnishment actions in all such inferior courts until or unless the supreme court changes the rule, or holds as a matter of law that the subject matter is substantive law.

            AGO 63-64 No. 3 in so far as the answer to question (1) therein is concerned should no longer be deemed controlling in the light of the subsequent rule‑making action of the supreme court.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

LLOYD W. PETERSON
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Senate Bill 486, introduced during the 1963 legislative session would have made chapter 12.32 RCW applicable to all justice courts, but that bill was not enacted into law.

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