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AGO 1959 No. 67 - September 17, 1959
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


(1) The general indexes required to be kept by the county auditor by RCW 65.04.050 may be kept by a card file system rather than in large well bound books.  (2) The county auditor is legally authorized to use microfilm and/or microcard system of recording certain instruments.

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                                                              September 17, 1959

Honorable R. DeWitt Jones
Prosecuting Attorney
Clark County
301 Court House
Vancouver, Washington                                                                                          Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 67

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested an opinion of this office on several matters which we paraphrase as follows:

            1.  May the record of the general indices, as required by RCW 65.04.050, be kept by a file or system other than the use of large well bound books?

            2.  Is a county auditor precluded from using a microfilm and or microcard system of recording as authorized by chapter 254, Laws of 1959, by virtue of the requirement of RCW 65.04.030 relating to the recording of certain instruments in "large and well bound books"?

            We answer the first question in the affirmative and the second question in the negative.


            1.  RCW 65.04.050 provides that "Every county auditor must keep a general index, direct and inverted . . ."  The statute sets forth the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] requirements as to the format to be employed in the setting up of the indices; however, RCW 65.04.050 is silent as to the necessity for keeping the indices in large, well bound books.  Therefore, it is the opinion of this office that the 3x5 card file system which you contemplate adopting in the auditor's office satisfactorily meets the provisions of RCW 65.04.050.  Of course, the requirements as to format, i.e., seven columns, names of grantor in alphabetical order, etc., must be strictly followed.

            2.  The question of the use of microfilm and/or microcard system of recording poses a more serious consideration.  Initially, there appears to be a conflict between RCW 65.04.030 and chapter 254, Laws of 1959, pertinent portions of which are herewith set forth.

            RCW 65.04.030 provides:

            "He [the county auditor] must, upon the payment of his fees for the same, record separately in large and well bound books:"

            The statute then lists seven categories of instruments which must be kept in large and well bound books.

            Section 1, chapter 254, Laws of 1959, provides:

            "Section 1, chapter 125, Laws of 1919 and RCW 65.04.040 are each amended to read as follows:

            "Any state, county, or municipal officer charged with the duty of recording instruments in public records, may, in lieu of transcription, record them by a photographic or photomechanical process, which produces a clear, legible, and durable record and which has been tested and approved for the intended purpose by the state archivist.

            "In addition,the county auditor, in the exercise of his duty of recording instruments in public records, may, in lieu of transcription, record all instruments, which he is charged by law to record, except plats, by any photographic, photostatic, microfilm, microcard, miniature photographic or other process which actually reproducesor forms a durable medium for so reproducing the original, and which has been tested and approved for the intended purpose by the state archivist. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The problem may be stated thus: "How can the county auditor keep microfilm in large and well bound books?"  RCW 65.04.030, which requires the county auditor to record seven categories of instruments in large and well bound books, conflicts with chapter 254, Laws of 1959, which grants him the authority to use microfilm because the use of microfilm negates the idea of the use of well bound books.

            If the microfilm of the instruments had to be separated and then each image of film placed individually in a large and well bound book, the cost would be prohibitive and the result absurd.

            Courts must give such construction to the language of a statute as will make it purposeful and effective, rather than futile and meaningless.  DeGrief v. City of Seattle, 50 Wn. (2d) 1, 297 P. (2d) 940.  Courts will presume that the legislature did not indulge in a vain or useless act and that some useful purpose or object is implicit in every legislative enactment.  Guiness v. State, 40 Wn. (2d) 677, 246 P. (2d) 433.

            The rule stated in the case of State v. Melton, 41 Wn. (2d) 298, 300, 248 P. (2d) 892, is particularly applicable:

            ". . . when a statute contains a grant of authority to achieve a lawful objective there is included in the grant by implication the doing of such acts as are reasonably necessary to properly attain such objective. . . ."

            Chapter 254, Laws of 1959, contains a grant of authority for county auditors to adopt a microfilm system of recording which is the lawful objective to be accomplished.  Therefore, the auditor may do such acts as are reasonably necessary to attain the objective.  The acts reasonably necessary to attain the objective in this instance are the employment of measures peculiar to the use of and the safekeeping of microfilm.  These measures are inconsonant with the use of "large and well bound books."  It appears, therefore, that chapter 254, Laws of 1959, impliedly amends RCW 65.04.030 in so far as the use of large and well bound books is concerned, where the microfilm and/or microcard system is adopted.  See Sutherland, Statutory Construction, 3rd ed., Vol. 1, § 1913, p. 165.

            Therefore, the provisions of RCW 65.04.030 are not applicable where a county auditor adopts the microfilm or microcard system of recording; however, the provisions of the cited statute do apply to any other system of recording currently utilized.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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