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AGO 1966 No. 124 - December 27, 1966
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


JUDGMENTS ‑- EXECUTION ‑- GARNISHMENTS ‑- EXECUTION AND GARNISHMENT UPON REGISTRATION OF A FOREIGN JUDGMENT.

The registrant of a foreign judgment, under chapter 6.36 RCW, may not cause execution, or garnishment under RCW 7.32.010 (3), to issue upon the judgment so registered prior to the time that said judgment is reduced to a judgment of this state.

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                                                               December 27, 1966

Honorable George A. Kain
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County Court House
Spokane, Washington 99201

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 65-66 No. 124

Dear Sir:

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

            May the registrant of a foreign judgment, under chapter 6.36 RCW, cause execution, or garnishment under RCW 7.32.010 (3), to issue upon the judgment so registered prior to the time that said judgment is reduced to a judgment of this state?

            We must answer your question in the negative for the reasons set forth in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Because of the holding inSullivan v. Sullivan, 168 Neb. 850, 97 N.W.2d 348, 72 A.L.R.2d 1251 (1959), you have asked that we review AGO 53-55 No. 97.  In that opinion it was concluded that the registrant of a foreign judgment under the uniform enforcement of foreign judgments act does not have the right, upon registration and prior to final judgment, to use enforcement methods available to holders of domestic judgments; instead, this office advised that such a registrant is limited to the use of attachment with its corresponding requirements of an affidavit and bond.  (Presumably he could also garnish under the provisions of RCW 7.32.010 (1)).

            Since opinions of the attorney general are to serve as a guide  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] in the administration of the laws of this state until such time as the courts shall place a construction upon the law involved, it has been the policy of this office since early statehood to adhere to its previous opinions except upon the discovery of new authority or where it is manifest that an error has been committed.  See, AGO 1901-02:51; also, AGO 1915-16:289 and AGO 1903-04:20.  For the reasons hereinafter set forth, and in accordance with the reasons for this policy, we believe that the conclusion reached in AGO 53-55 No. 97, supra, should be affirmed.

            Generally, the uniform enforcement of foreign judgments act (chapter 191, Laws of 1953, codified in chapter 6.36 RCW), provides that a foreign judgment is registered by filing the same with the clerk of the superior court along with a verified petition for registration.  See, RCW 6.36.010, 6.36.020, 6.36.030.  Notice is then given to the judgment debtor pursuant to RCW 6.36.040 and 6.36.050.  The debtor is entitled to assert certain defenses stated in RCW 6.36.080, and ultimately a domestic judgment is obtained.  See, RCW 63.36.070 and 6.36.120.

            We are here concerned with the effect of RCW 6.36.060, which reads as follows:

            "At any time after registration and regardless of whether jurisdiction of the person of the judgment debtor has been secured or final judgment has been obtained, a levy may be made under the registered judgment upon any property of the judgment debtor which is subject to execution or other judicial process for satisfaction of judgment."

            "Levy" is defined elsewhere in the act (RCW 6.36.010), as follows:

            ". . . [T]o take control of or create a lien upon property under any judicial writ or process whereby satisfaction of a judgment may be enforced against such property."

            Of the eight states that have adopted this uniform act, only two, Nebraska and Arkansas, have had occasion to construe their counterpart of this section.  Both states, in decisions rendered subsequent to the adoption of the act in this state, have held that the registrant of a foreign judgment may, at any time after registration, cause the issuance of such  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] "judicial writs or process" as are available to domestic judgment creditors in the respective states.  Sullivan v. Sullivan, supra; Nunez v. O. K. Processors, 238 Ark. 429, 382 S.W.2d 384 (1964).  Since the act in question is designed to make uniform the laws of all the states enacting it (see, RCW 6.36.900), the same construction, if at all possible, should be placed on the statute here.  SeeContinental Mutual Savings Bank v. Elliott, 166 Wash. 283, 6 P.2d 638 (1932); 2 Sutherland, Statutory Construction, § 5211, p. 557 (3rd ed. 1943).

            However, we do not believe that such a construction is possible in Washington.  Statutes are not enacted in a vacuum; the legislature is presumed to be aware of other statutes pertaining to the same subject.  Benn v. Grays Harbor County, 102 Wash. 620, 173 Pac. 632 (1918); State v. Thornbury, 190 Wash. 549, 69 P.2d 815 (1937).  Seemingly conflicting statutes will be interpreted so as to make them each effective, if possible.  State ex rel. Moulton v. City of Spokane, 174 Wash. 679, 26 P.2d 89 (1933).  Where provisions relating to the same subject matter are embodied in different statutes, the provisions should be harmonized so as to maintain the integrity of each, wherever possible.  Buell v. McGee, 9 Wn.2d 84, 113 P.2d 522 (1941).  Inconsistency between statutes is never presumed, but such interpretation or construction should be adopted as will harmonize all acts on the subject; if reasonably possible.  Lindsey v. Superior Court of King County, 33 Wn.2d 94, 204 P.2d 482 (1949).

            It will be noted that the uniform act does not specify the types of "judicial writs or processes" to be used in effecting a "levy."  This is left to the various states which enact the law.  See Commissioners' Note to § 6 of the uniform enforcement of foreign judgments act, 9 ULA Anno. 380 [[9 U.L.A. 380]]; Light, "The Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act," 37 Chicago Bar Record 247, 255.  Furthermore, where statutory methods of enforcing judgments are enacted, they are exclusive and controlling.  33 C.J.S., Executions, § 2, p. 134; cf. Murray v. Briggs, 29 Wash. 245, 69 Pac. 765 (1902).

            It is when we look to the statutes prescribing the "judicial writs or processes" whereby satisfaction of a judgment may be enforced in our state that the seeming inconsistency arises between RCW 6.36.060, supra, and these statutes.  Parenthetically it should be noted in this respect that neither the Arkansas supreme court inNunez, supra, nor the Nebraska supreme court inSullivan, supra, were confronted with this problem for two reasons: (1) Both states enacted a provision (§ 19) of the uniform act which repealed all acts or parts of acts inconsistent therewith, whereas Washington did not adopt this  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] section; and (2) the statutes creating the writs or processes available to judgment creditors were, in those states, sufficiently broad to include the "levy" of their counterparts of RCW 6.36.060.  See, Rev. Stats. Nebraska, 25-1056 and 3A Ark. Stats. Anno. 30-101.

            The "writs or processes" which are available to a judgment creditor in Washington include (1) the writ of execution and (2) the writ of garnishment.  Examination of RCW 6.04.010, relating to the issuance of a writ of execution, reveals that the writ may be issued only upon request of a party in whose favor "a judgment of a court of record of this state has been . . . rendered."  However, upon registration under the uniform act, no judgment has yet been "rendered" by a court of record of this state.  Rendition involves a judicial act, a determination.  Cinebar Coal & Coke Co. v. Robinson, 1 Wn.2d 620, 97 P.2d 128 (1939);Quarles v. Seattle, 26 Wash. 226, 66 Pac. 389 (1901); Black's Law Dictionary (3rd ed.).  It therefore follows that the mere act of registration does not confer upon a foreign judgment the status of a judgment "of this state," although as previously noted the act does contemplate that the registered judgment will ultimately take on that character.  RCW 6.36.070, 6.36.120,supra.

            Accordingly, we conclude (in accordance with the conclusion stated in AGO 53-55 No. 97,supra, though on the basis of a somewhat more refined rationale) that the writ of execution, under RCW 6.04.010, supra, is not available to the registrant of a foreign judgment until such time as the judgment becomes ". . . a judgment of a court of record of this state . . ."; i.e., pursuant to RCW 6.36.070 or RCW 6.36.120.

            In our opinion, the same thing must be said as to garnishments under RCW 7.32.010 (3).  This statute permits a garnishment to issue where the plaintiff "has a judgment . . . in the court from which" he seeks the issuance of a writ.1/   Of course, the right to garnish is purely statutory; it exists only when clearly sanctioned by statutory law.  McAvoy v. Weber, 198 Wash. 370, 88 P.2d 448 (1939).  Notwithstanding the slight difference in language between RCW 6.04.010,supra, and RCW 7.32.010 (3), it seems to us absurd to suggest that a judgment  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] creditor's remedy of garnishment would be available to a foreign judgment creditor where, because of statutory limitations, an execution could not issue.  In order to avoid this absurdity, we are constrained to construe RCW 7.32.010(3) as referring to judgments actually rendered in the court from which the writ is sought, except in those cases in which there is specific statutory authority to do otherwise.  See, RCW 4.56.200 (3).

            Stated in different words, the determinative point, in our opinion, is that if RCW 6.36.060,supra, were read as permitting a foreign judgment registrant to use a domestic judgment creditor's remedies of execution (RCW 6.04.010) and garnishment (RCW 7.32.010 (3)), during the period between registration and the time when the judgment becomes ". . . a judgment of the court in which it is registered" (RCW 6.36.070 and RCW 6.36.120), the statute would be inconsistent with these preexisting realization statutes.  On the other hand, if one reads RCW 6.36.060 as permitting only those "writs or processes" available to a creditor prior to judgment,2/ no inconsistency is encountered.  The realization statutes and the levy section of the uniform act are harmonized and can stand together and each is meaningful.

            We are not unaware of the argument that the construction placed upon the uniform act by AGO 53-55 No. 97 currently renders the act of little use to the Washington practitioner.  However, this is so only because an alternative method of enforcing foreign judgments, notably the use of summary judgment procedures, has been, since the passage of the uniform act, adopted by our court.  Indeed, the uniform commissioners have seen fit to recognize the wide‑spread use of summary judgment procedures in the United States and have adopted a new uniform enforcement of foreign judgments act which is equated with such procedures.  See, Commissioners Prefatory Note to the Revised 1964 Act, 9A U.L.A. pp. 486-487.

            It should be clear from the foregoing that AGO 53-55 No. 97 is not clearly erroneous.  We must therefore adhere to the conclusion stated therein.  The registrant of a foreign judgment may not use writs or processes available to the holder of a domestic judgment until the foreign judgment has been reduced to a judgment of this state.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

RICHARD A. MATTSEN
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/Compare RCW 7.32.010 (1) and (2), relating to garnishment prior to the entry of a judgment; cf., RCW 7.12.010, etc., relative to attachment.

2/Attachment under RCW 7.12.010, et seq., and garnishment under RCW 7.32.010 (1) and (2).

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