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AGO 1967 No. 30 - August 10, 1967
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS - JUSTICE - 1961 JUSTICE COURT ACT - GARNISHMENT - FEES.

A party procuring a writ of garnishment in a justice court operating under the provisions of the 1961 justice court act (chapter 299, Laws of 1961) is required to pay to such court an additional sum of $1.00 for each such process in accordance with RCW 3.62.060; nothing contained in chapter 143, Laws of 1967, affects this conclusion.

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                                                                 August 10, 1967

Honorable Ronald Hendry
Prosecuting Attorney
Pierce County
County-City Building
Tacoma, Washington 98402

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1967 No. 30

Dear Sir:

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

            Is a party procuring a writ of garnishment in a justice court operating under the provisions of the 1961 justice court act (chapter 299, Laws of 1961) still required to pay to such court ". . . an additional sum of one dollar for each such process . . ." in view of certain provisions contained in chapter 143, Laws of 1967?

            We answer your question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The fees payable in civil actions commenced in justice courts operating under the 1961 justice court act (chapter 299, Laws of 1961) are set forth in RCW 3.62.060, as follows:

            "In any civil action commenced before or transferred to a justice court, the plaintiff shall, at the time of such commencement or transfer, pay to such court a filing fee of four dollars.  Fees for the support of county  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] law libraries shall be paid and collected according to the provisions of RCW 27.24.070.  No party shall be compelled to pay to the court any other fees or charges up to and including the rendition of judgment in the action:  Provided, That if process in replevin, attachment, or garnishment shall issue therein, the party procuring such process shall pay to such court an additional sum of one dollar for each such process as the fees and charges of the court incident to the proceedings."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Procedurally, the issuance of writs of garnishment by justices of the peace is covered in some detail by the provisions of statutes (basically, chapter 160, Laws of 1909, and amendments) which have been codified as chapter 12.32 RCW.  Chapter 143, Laws of 1967, amends these statutes in various respects.  Your question is as to the impact of certain of these amendments upon the garnishment fee provisions of RCW 3.62.060,supra.

            The first issue to be resolved in answering this question is, as you have recognized, the matter of whether chapter 12.32 RCW, as amended by chapter 143, Laws of 1967, now applies to justice courts organized under the 1961 justice court act.  In AGO 63-64 No. 3, copy enclosed, we advised that the provisions of this chapter, as they then read, were not applicable to these new justice courts.  In thus concluding, we noted the language of RCW 12.32.010 (codifying § 1, chapter 160, Laws of 1909), which then provided as follows:

            "The justice of the peace in the various precincts in the state may issue writs of garnishment, returnable to their respective courts, where the plaintiff sues for a debt and makes affidavit that such debt is just, due and unpaid, and that the garnishment applied for is not sued out to injure either the defendant or the garnishee."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            We then said:

            "On the other hand, the authority of 'new' justice courts organized and operating on the basis ofdistricts under chapter 299, Laws of 1961, to issue writs of garnishments is to be found in § 113, chapter 299, Laws  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] of 1961 (cf. RCW 3.66.030 (8)).  Accordingly, it is to be seen that the 'new' justice courts are not governed by the 1909 garnishment act (chapter 160, Laws of 1909,supra).

            "Thus it follows that the provisions of this garnishment act (including § 2, chapter 160, Laws of 1909, as amended, cf. RCW 12.32.020, supra), have no bearing on the garnishment jurisdiction of justice courts operating under chapter 299, Laws of 1961.2

            However, by § 1, chapter 143, Laws of 1967, the legislature has deleted the phrase "in the various precincts" from the provisions of RCW 12.32.010.  Against the background of our earlier opinion, it seems fairly evident that the legislative purpose in so amending this statute was to overcome the basis for our opinion, and thereby to render the procedural provisions of chapter 12.32 RCW applicable to all justices of the peace, including those operating under the provisions of the 1961 justice court act.

            Thus, we turn to the question of whether, in view of certain other amendments contained in this same chapter 143, Laws of 1967, those justice courts which are operating under chapter 299, Laws of 1961, are to continue to collect the $1.00 garnishment fee prescribed by RCW 3.62.060, supra.  In order to understand and resolve this problem, it is necessary to look not only at the provisions of chapter 143, Laws of 1967, but also, and initially, at the history of this legislation.

            Basically, we are here concerned with §§ 2 and 3 of chapter 143, Laws of 1967, amending the prior statutes which have been codified as RCW 12.32.020 and 12.32.030.  These two sections originated as §§ 2 and 3 of chapter 160, Laws of 1909.  As originally enacted, § 2 set forth the following requisites to issuance of a writ of garnishment by a justice of the peace:

            "Before the issuance of the writ of garnishment, the plaintiff, or someone in his behalf, shall make application therefor by affidavit, stating the facts authorizing the issuance of the writ, and that he has reason to believe and does believe that the garnishee is indebted to the defendant or that he has in his possession or under his control personal property or effects belonging to the defendant, or that the garnishee is a corporation and that the defendant is the owner of shares  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] of the capital stock thereof."

            Section 3 then provided in material part as follows:

            "When the foregoing requisites have been complied with, the justice of the peace shall immediately issue a writ of garnishment directed to the garnishee, commanding him to appear before the court from which it is issued, . . ."

            However, two years later, both §§ 2 and 3 were amended by §§ 2 and 3, chapter 126, Laws of 1911.  Section 2 was amended to read as follows:

            "Before the issuance of the writ of garnishment, the plaintiff, or someone in his behalf, shall make application therefor by affidavit, stating the facts authorizing the issuance of the writ, and that he has reason to believe and does believe that the garnishee is indebted to the defendant or that he has in his possession or under his control personal property or effects belonging to the defendant, or that the garnishee is a corporation and that the defendant is the owner of shares of the capital stock thereof, and that the garnishment applied for is not sued out to injure either the defendant or the garnishee."

            Notably, this 1911 amendment to § 2 did not contain any reference to fees.  However, in spite of this fact, § 3 was amended by the 1911 act to read as follows:

            "When the foregoing requisites have been complied with, the justice of the peace shall,without additional fee, docket the case in the name of the plaintiff, as plaintiff, and of the garnishee as defendant, and shall immediately issue a writ of garnishment, . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Thereupon, this office was asked for an opinion on the question of whether this amendment had the effect of eliminating the garnishment fee provisions of certain prior general fee statutes applicable to justices of the peace.1/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            In responding, the attorney general first took note of the existence of certain alternative procedures for obtaining a writ of garnishment in justice court, pursuant to §§ 1807-22, Rem. & Bal. Code.  The opinion (AGO 1913-1914, p. 289, copy enclosed) then concluded as follows:

            "Chapter 126, Laws of 1911, contains no repealing clause, and it therefore follows that there are two methods of garnishment in justice courts, to-wit: Proceedings by garnishee summons (secs. 1807-22 and 1886, Rem. & Bal. Code), and by sections 1823-46, Rem. & Bal. Code, as amended by chapter 126, Laws of 1911.

            "In an opinion rendered to the bureau of inspection and supervision of public offices under date of May 27, 1911 (Opinions 1911-12, p. 82), this office held with reference to section 3, chapter 126, Laws of 1911, as follows:

            "'In our opinion this section applies only to garnishment actions where process is served by writ of garnishment issued by the justice of the peace, and where the old procedure is followed and process is served by garnishee summons, the fees as provided in section 1864, of Rem. & Bal. Code, should still be collected.'

            "In direct answer to your inquiry, you are therefore advised that where proceedings in garnishment are brought as provided by sections 1807-22 and 1886, Rem. & Bal. Code, the fee for garnishment proceedings as provided in section 1864, Rem. & Bal. Code, should be collected, and that where the proceedings are brought under the provisions of sections 1823-46, Rem. & Bal.  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] Code, as amended by chapter 126, Laws of 1911, no additional fee for such proceedings should be charged."

            This state of affairs continued until 1929, when the legislature, by chapter 53, Laws of 1929, repealed the prior statutes which had been codified as §§ 1807-22, Rem. & Bal. Code - thus leaving the procedures set forth in chapter 160, Laws of 1909, as amended, as the only procedures for obtaining a writ of garnishment in justice court.  The effect of this act, apparently, was to eliminate all justice court garnishment fees.

            Then, in 1931, by § 2, chapter 109, Laws of 1931, the legislature further amended § 2, chapter 160, Laws of 1909, so as to add thereto a provision that writs of garnishment were not to be issued until after a deposit with the justice of the sum of $2.00 for each garnishee defendant named in the writ.  The 1931 amendment then went on to provide that:

            ". . . The justice shall pay to each garnishee defendant, out of the sum so deposited by the plaintiff, the sum of two dollars ($2.00), upon the filing of his answer, which shall be credited upon any judgment thereafter awarded such garnishee defendant against either the plaintiff or the defendant for costs or attorney's fees.  If no answer shall be filed by the garnishee defendant on or before the return day thereof the said sum shall be returned to the plaintiff.  If the plaintiff shall thereafter recover costs against the garnishee defendant, said sum shall be added thereto.  If said sum is applied on a judgment of the garnishee defendant against the defendant it shall be taxed as costs against the defendant and in favor of the plaintiff."

            As you have related, this deposit has come to be known as an "answer fee" because of the provisions made for its disposition.  It has continued to be required at all times since 1931 until the enactment of chapter 143, Laws of 1967.  However, it has not been collected by justice courts operating under the 1961 justice court act because of the conclusion which we reached in AGO 63-64 No. 3,supra.

            The provisions of chapter 143, Laws of 1967, to which we must now refer, are §§ 2 and 3 thereof.  By the first of these sections, the legislature eliminated the "answer fee."  By § 3,  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] the legislature altered certain procedures for the issuance of writs of garnishment; however, in conformity with the requirements of Article II, § 37, of our state constitution,2/ it set forth in full the provisions of the section being amended; i.e., § 3, chapter 126, Laws of 1911 (RCW 12.32.030).  Thus, of course, the 1967 amendatory act continues to contain the provision that:

            "When the foregoing requisites have been complied with, the justice of the peace shall,without additional fee,. . . immediately issue a writ of garnishment, . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Query:

            Does this mean that no fee at all is now to be collected in connection with writs of garnishment, notwithstanding the provisions of RCW 3.62.060, supra?

            To answer this question in the affirmative would, as you recognize, be to characterize the provisions of chapter 143, Laws of 1967, as impliedly amending or repealing the garnishment fee provisions of this 1961 justice court provision.  Thus, in considering this issue we must be guided by the following well-established principles:

            (1) Repeals by implication are not favored, and should be indulged only where the implication is a necessary one; where otherwise an earlier act would be irreconcilably inconsistent with the later act.  Buell v. McGee, 9 Wn.2d 84, 113 P.2d 522 (1941); State ex rel. Dept. of Finance, Budget & Business v. Thurston Co., 6 Wn.2d 633, 108 P.2d 828 (1940); Bruner v. Little, 97 Wash. 319, 166 Pac. 1166 (1917).

            (2) Inconsistency between statutes upon a given subject is never presumed, but such interpretation or construction should be adopted as will harmonize all acts upon the subject, if possible.  Ropo, Inc. v. Seattle, 67 Wn.2d 574, 409 P.2d 148 (1965); Kruesel v. Collin, 171 Wash. 200, 17 P.2d 854 (1933); 1 Sutherland, Statutory Construction, (3rd ed.) 470, § 2015; 50 Am.Jur., Statutes, § 363;Lindsey v. Superior Court, 33 Wn.2d 94, 204 P.2d 482 (1949).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            (3) Each word of a statute is to be accorded meaning, if possible.  State v. Lundquist, 60 Wn.2d 397, 374 P.2d 246 (1962); Group Health, et al. v. King County Medical Society, 39 Wn.2d 586, 237 P.2d 737 (1951).

            (4) Where a general and a subsequent special act relate to the same subject, provisions of the special act must prevail.  State v. Collins, 55 Wn.2d 469, 348 P.2d 214 (1960).

            It is apparent from the historical resume above set forth that from and after the 1929 repeal of the alternative garnishment procedures noted in our 1913 opinion and the 1931 enactment of the "answer fee" provisions, the only fee payable in justice court forissuance of a writ of garnishment was the $2.00 answer fee.  However, with the establishment of the 1961 justice court system, this situation was changed.  While the answer fee was not payable in justice courts operating under this system -accord, AGO 63-64 No. 3, supra, -the additional fee provided for by RCW 3.62.060, supra, was.  Furthermore, this fee would have been payable even if chapter 12.32 RCW had been regarded as applicable to these new justice courts, for RCW 3.62.060 would have constituted a subsequent special statute within the meaning of the rule last above noted.

            In other words, had we concluded in AGO 63-64 No. 3 that chapter 12.32 RCW as it then read was applicable to 1961 justice courts, we would have then concluded that both the $2.00 answer fee provided for by RCW 12.32.020 and the $1.00 fee provided for by RCW 3.62.060, would be payable for issuance of a writ of garnishment.  We would have simply read the two statutes together, and have given full effect to both; in consequence, we would have characterized the phrase "without additional fee" appearing in RCW 12.32.030, supra, as simply barring any further fee, in addition to these two fees.3/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 9]]

            The legislature has now eliminated the $2.00 answer fee.  It has also amended certain aspects of RCW 12.32.030 which has, since 1911, contained the phrase "without additional fee."  It has repeated that phrase in the 1967 amendatory act - but merely in order to conform to the requirements of Article II, § 37, supra.  See,State ex rel. School Dist. No. 102 v. Clausen, 116 Wash. 432, 199 Pac. 752 (1921).  Thus, the relationship between RCW 12.32.030 and RCW 3.62.020 remains exactly the same as it would have been at the time of our 1963 opinion -had we reached the issue.  From this it follows that with respect to 1961 justice courts, RCW 12.32.030 now simply means that for issuance of writs of garnishment, no fee, in addition to the fee provided for by RCW 3.62.060, is to be charged.

            This reading of the statutes is certainly permissible, and, in accordance with the rules above noted, this view of the matter must be taken in the absence of irreconcilable conflict or express repeal.  Accordingly, in summary, it is our opinion that justice courts organized under chapter 299, Laws of 1961, are to continue collecting the $1.00 garnishment fee prescribed by RCW 3.62.060.

            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

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

2/See, also, In re Self v. Rhay, 61 Wn.2d 261, 377 P.2d 885 (1963).

1/See, § 1, chapter 121, Laws of 1907, which, as subsequently amended by § 1, chapter 138, Laws of 1915, and by § 1, chapter 143, Laws of 1919, is now codified as RCW 3.16.060 -pertaining to fee justices of the peace.  See, also, § 2, chapter 66, laws of 1893, now codified as RCW 3.16.070 -pertaining to salaried justices of the peace in counties not operating under the provisions of the 1961 justice court act.

2/See, also, In re Self v. Rhay, 61 Wn.2d 261, 377 P.2d 885 (1963).

3/The word "additional" is a word of common usage, meaning "existing or coming by way of addition:  added, further."  See Webster's Third International Dictionary (1966); see, also, 2 Words and Phrases, 503.  In other words, the word "additional" means something that is added to something that is already in existence so as to form an aggregate.  York Pharmacal Company v. Beckmann Realty & Investment Co., Mo. App., 304 S.W.2d 40 (1957).

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