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AGO 1966 No. 67 - January 12, 1966
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS ‑- SUPERIOR ‑- VISITING JUDGES ‑- EXPENSES ‑- PAYMENT.

The statement of expenses of a visiting judge verified by his affidavit is not subject to audit and approval by the county commissioners.

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

                                                                 January 12, 1966

Honorable Albert C. Bise
Administrator for the Courts
Temple of Justice
Olympia, Washington 98502

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 67

Dear Sir:

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

            Under RCW 2.08.170 are the claims for expenses of visiting judges subject to audit and/or approval by boards of county commissioners?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 2.08.170, referring expressly to the expenses of visiting judges, provides in pertinent part as follows:

            ". . . The county clerk of such county shall, upon the presentation to him by such judge of a statement of such expenses, verified by his affidavit, issue to such judge a certificate that he is entitled to the amount thereof; and upon presentation of such certificate to the auditor of such county he shall draw a warrant on the general fund [current expense fund] of such county for the amount in favor of such judge."

            The terms of this statute are clear and seem to be free from any ambiguity.  Nothing in the language of the statute indicates any requirement that the county commissioners' approval be obtained as any step of the procedure for payment.

            As a general rule, all county claims are required to be approved by boards of county commissioners as an essential  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] condition of their payment.  The general statute relative to such requirement, RCW 36.22.040, has always made special exceptions of claims for which other procedures have been established by the legislature.  RCW 36.22.040 provides as follows:

            "The county auditor shall audit all claims, demands, and accounts against the county which by law are chargeable to the county, except such cost or fee bills as are by law to be examined or approved by some other judicial tribunal or officer.  Such claims as it is his duty to audit shall be presented to the board of county commissioners for their examination and allowance."

            RCW 36.32.120 further provides in pertinent part that:

            "The several boards of county commissioners shall:

            ". . .

            "(5) Allow all accounts legally chargeable against the county not otherwise provided for, . . .

            ". . ."

            The expenses of a visiting judge under RCW 2.08.170, supra, are clearly among the excepted claims.  As a matter of fact, the supreme court, by way of dicta at least confirms that view inOld National Bank v. Lewis County, 137 Wash. 436, 242 Pac. 961 (1926).  In the course of the court's opinion, at page 442, we find the following statement:

            ". . . The statutes of this state have vested in a board of county commissioners the care of the county property and the management of the county funds and business, and have made it their duty to audit and allow all accounts legally chargeable against the county.  [Citation omitted] To this general power and authority, there are certain exceptions with reference to expenses connected with the administration of justice, such as cost bills, fees of the official court reported, and the expenses of a judge called to hold court in a county other than the county of his election.  For these the auditor may draw warrants on the county treasurer, on the certificate of the judge of the superior court. . . ." (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In further support of this interpretation see State ex rel. Egbert v. Blumberg, 46 Wash. 270, 89 Pac. 708 (1907); also,State ex rel. Lawler v. Grant, 178 Wash. 61, 34 P.2d 355 (1934).

            We trust that this information will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

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