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AGO 1968 No. 34 - November 19, 1968
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


COURTS - JUSTICE COURTS - 1961 ACT - DISBURSEMENT OF RECEIPTS - COSTS CHARGEABLE TO COUNTY.

In a county to which the 1961 justice court act is applicable, the county's cost in providing courtrooms and offices for its district justice courts is to be included among the "total expenditures for such justice courts" for the purpose of making computations and disbursements provided for by RCW 3.62.050, as amended by § 2, chapter 213, Laws of 1963.

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                                                               November 19, 1968

Honorable Granville Egan
Prosecuting Attorney
Ferry County Court House
Republic, Washington 99166

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1968 No. 34

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your recent letter requesting our opinion on a question pertaining to the "cost of providing courtroom and office space" for district justice courts under RCW 3.62.050.  We paraphrase your question as follows:

            In a county to which the 1961 justice court act is applicable, are the county's costs in providing courtrooms and offices for the district justice courts, pursuant to RCW 3.58.050, to be included among the "total expenditures of such justice courts" for the purpose of making computations and disbursements provided for by RCW 3.62.050?

            We answer this question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in the following analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Under RCW 3.58.050 the county commissioners of a county in which the 1961 justice court act (chapter 299, Laws of 1961) is applicable are required to,

            ". . . furnish all necessary facilities for the justice courts, including suitable courtrooms, furniture, books, stationery, postage, office equipment, heat, light and telephone . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            However, § 109 of the original 1961 act, which has been codified as RCW 3.62.050, expressly excluded the county's "cost of providing courtroom or other space" from consideration in computing the quarterly disbursements of justice court receipts which were provided for by that section.  This section of the original act read as follows:

            "Quarterly, the county treasurer shall determine the difference between the amount deposited to the current expense or salary fund by each justice court and the total expenditures of each justice court:  Provided, Thatthe cost of providing courtroom or other space shall not be included in such total expenditures for the purposes of this section.  The treasurer shall then charge each governmental unit fund entitled to share in the receipts of the court its proportionate share of such unreimbursed difference of expenditures incurred during the quarter and make the appropriate treasurer's remittance to the current expense or salary fund.  The proportionate share charged against each fund shall be determined by the relationship between the unreimbursed expenditures and the total credits of the court to each fund as required by section 106.  Balances remaining in governmental funds shall then be remitted as provided by law."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Based upon this express exclusion, we concluded, in AGO 63-64 No. 10, copy enclosed, that:

            ". . . the cost of providing courtroom or other space (which cost is not to be included in calculating the total expenditures of justice courts for the purposes of RCW 3.62.050, supra) does not include the cost of providingall of the facilities enumerated in RCW 3.58.050, supra.  Rather, it includes only the cost of providing the courtroom space itself exclusive of furniture, books, stationery, postage, office equipment, heat, light and telephone."

            This opinion was issued on January 31, 1963, while our state legislature was in session.  Thereupon, the legislature promptly amended the first sentence of RCW 3.62.050,supra, so as to cause it to read as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Quarterly, the county treasurer shall determine the difference between the amount deposited to the current expense or salary fund by all of the justice courts of the county and the total expenditures of such justice courts,including the cost of providing courtroom and office space. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)1/

             Based upon this 1963 amendment, which was unquestionably enacted in order to change the law as we had construed it in our opinion, it seems quite clear that the "total expenditures of such justice courts," for purposes of the computations provided for in RCW 3.62.050, nowinclude the county's costs in providing courtroom and office space under RCW 3.58.050.  Therefore, it follows that these costs represent cost items for which funds may be retained by the county treasurer in the current expense fund when quarterly disbursements are made to "each governmental unit fund entitled to share in the receipts of the courts."

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, § 2, chapter 213, Laws of 1963.

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