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AGO 1963 No. 67 - October 21, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS ‑- JUSTICE COURT ACT OF 1961 ‑- COUNTIES NOT UNDER ACT ‑- JUSTICES OF PEACE ‑- OPTION OF COUNTY TO PAY DUES AND EXPENSES FOR MEMBERSHIP IN WASHINGTON STATE MAGISTRATES ASSOCIATION.

A county which has not elected to come under the provisions of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, may but is not required to provide funds for payment of dues or expenses relating to membership of justices of the peace in the Washington state magistrates association.

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                                                                October 21, 1963

Honorable E. R. Whitmore
Prosecuting Attorney
Chelan County
Wenatchee, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 67

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested the opinion of this office on the following paraphrased question:

            Is there any obligation on the part of a county, such as Chelan county, which has not elected to come under the provisions of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, to provide funds for the payment of dues or expenses relating to membership of justices of the peace in the Washington state magistrates association?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The Washington state magistrates association is created by virtue of § 123, chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (RCW 3.70.010).  Section 125 of that same act provides that an inferior court judge shall be entitled to receive expenses, within indicated limitations, incident to attendance at annual meetings of the association from the county or city responsible for the operating costs of the court over which he presides.  Thus, it is clear that those counties to which the 1961 justice court act is applicable are obligated to pay expenses incident to attendance at annual meetings of the association.

            The scope of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, is indicated in § 2 of that act, which appears in RCW 3.30.020 as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "The provisions of chapter 3.30 through 3.74 [[chapters 3.30 through 3.74 RCW]]shall apply to class AA and class A 3.74 shall apply to class AA and class A counties:Provided, That any city having a population of more than five hundred thousand may be resolution of its legislative body elect to continue to operate a municipal court pursuant to the provisions of chapter 35.20 [[chapter 35.20 RCW]], as if chapters 3.30 through 3.74 had never been enacted:  Provided further, That if a city elects to continue its municipal court pursuant to this section, the number of justices of the peace allocated to the county in RCW 3.34.010 shall be reduced by two and the number of full time justices of the peace allocated by RCW 3.34.020 to the district in which the city is situated shall also be reduced by two.  The provisions of chapters 3.30 through 3.74 may be made applicable to any county of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth class upon a majority vote of its board of county commissioners."

            By letter dated August 18, 1961, to Mr. R. C. Watts of the Washington state association of county commissioners, a copy of which is enclosed, this office took the position that by virtue of § 2, no portion of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, is applicable to counties other than class AA and class A in the absence of affirmative action by the board of county commissioners of a lesser class county as prescribed by the last sentence of the section.  We adhere to that position except for one small qualification involving § 123.1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Since the action necessary to bring Chelan county within the scope of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, has not been accomplished it follows that § 125, chapter 299, Laws of 1961, relating to magistrates association expenses is not now applicable to Chelan county.2/   Our research has disclosed no other statute giving rise to an obligation on the part of a county to pay the expenses you are concerned about.  Consequently, it is the opinion of this office that a county, such as Chelan, which has not elected to come under the provisions of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, has no obligation to provide funds for the payment of dues or expenses relating to membership of justices of the peace in the Washington state magistrates association.

            Nothing herein should be construed to mean that counties may not elect to provide for these expenses.  Funds may be legally expended for this purpose should the counties affected elect to do so.  See, AGO 53-55 No. 11 [[to Cliff Yelle, State Auditor on April 21, 1953]].  But they have no legal obligation to make the AGO 53-55 No. 11.  But they have no legal obligation to make the expenditure unless the provisions of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, are adopted.

            We trust the foregoing will be helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

LLOYD W. PETERSON
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/It should be observed that § 123 of chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (RCW 3.70.010) is a self-executing provision and operative independent of any action taken under § 2 of the act.  By virtue of § 123, a state association is created composed of "all duly elected or appointed and qualified inferior court judges, including but not limited to justices of the peace, police court judges and municipal court judges."  Since the provision affects individual judges and justices of the peace as officials, and not counties, presence or absence of affirmative action relating to adoption of the 1961 act by counties cannot affect the validity of the Washington state magistrates association.

2/But, see, AGO 63-64 No. 54 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Klickitat County on September 9, 1963]]in which we conclude that chapter

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