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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1953 No. 142 - Oct 5 1953
Attorney General Don Eastvold


According to the last censusin setting up justice of the peace district means last state census.

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                                                                 October 5, 1953

Honorable Robert S. Campbell
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 142

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of September 8, 1953, requesting an opinion as to whether or not the county commissioners, in establishing new Justice of the Peace districts pursuant to chapter 156, Laws of 1951, and chapter 206, Laws of 1953, shall recognize the 1950 Decennial Federal Census or a subsequent census of cities and towns which the state recognizes for the distribution of tax monies.

            It is our opinion that the county commissioners are bound to consider the last state official census of cities and towns in establishing Justice of the Peace districts.


            The confusion arises from an interpretation of section 1, chapter 156, Laws of 1951, set out as follows:

            "The number of justices of the peace to be elected in cities having a population of 5,000 or more, according to the last census, shall be as follows: 5,000 to 20,000, one; * * *"

            The foregoing is limited to the last census of cities having a population of 5,000 or more.  This distinction is made because in distributing monies to counties from the state liquor revolving fund under RCW 43.66.100 and RCW 43.66.120, the basis is "the last federal census" and "every federal census" and a different basis is established for cities and towns under RCW 43.66.110 providing that "until the 1950 federal census figures are published the division among eligible cities and towns shall be made on the basis of the census for cities and towns made as of April 1, 1948, by the State Census Board under chapter 43.62 * * *."  This act was passed by the legislature in the year 1949  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] prior to the 1950 Decennial Federal Census.

            Since the passage of the foregoing act the legislature has provided an additional means for computing the population of cities and towns for the allocation of state funds to cities and towns.

            Section 2, chapter 96, Laws of 1951, provides as follows:

            "The board shall as of April 1, 1952, and annually thereafter as of April first, determine the population of all cities and towns of the state; and on or before June first of each year, except the year 1951, shall file with the secretary of state a certificate showing its determination as to the population of the cities and towns of the state.  On and after January first next following the date when such certificate is filed the population shown in such certificate shall be used as the basis for the allocation and payment of state funds to cities and towns until the next January first following the filing of successive certificates by the board."

            We feel that the foregoing act, insofar as the State of Washington is concerned and where not in conflict with laws governing the allocation of special funds, is controlling in determining "the last census" of cities and towns within the meaning of section 1, chapter 156, Laws of 1951.

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

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General