Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1961 No. 56 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


The enactment of chapter 299, Laws of 1961, relating to justices of the peace and other inferior courts does not affect the functioning of existing justice courts until the second Monday in January, 1963.

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                                                                 August 15, 1961

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County City Building
Seattle, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 56

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office relative to whether any part of chapter 299, Laws of 1961 (relating to justices of the peace and other inferior courts) became effective on June 8, 1961,as to presently existing justice courts.

            We answer your question in the manner set forth in our analysis.


            By chapter 299, Laws of 1961, our state legislature enacted a comprehensive statute designed to effectuate a substantial reorganization of courts of limited jurisdiction as are located in class AA and class A counties of this state, with the additional proviso that "the provisions of this act may be made applicable to any county of the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth class upon a majority vote of the support of the county commissioners."  Section 2, chapter 299, Laws of 1961.

            Included in this act are provisions for the expansion of civil and criminal jurisdiction (§§ 113, 117), increased filing fees (§§ 110-111), and the issuance of state‑wide [[statewide]]warrants (§ 121).  It is with regard to these matters that you have expressed special interest (relative to whether these provisions became effective on June 8, 1961, with regard to presently existing justice courts).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Chapter 299, Laws of 1961, became effective on June 8, 1961, or ninety days after the adjournment of the session at which it was enacted. Article II, § 41 (Amendment 26), Washington State Constitution.  However, by § 129 of this 1961 act, the legislature provided as follows:

            "All justice courts and inferior courts in counties effected by this act on the effective date of this act shall continue to function until the second Monday in January, 1963 as if this act had not been enacted:  PROVIDED, That no elections for justice of the peace shall be held in such counties in 1962 except as provided in this act:  PROVIDED FURTHER, That in such counties the terms of office of all justices of the peace, municipal judges and police court judges whose terms commenced prior to the second Monday in January, 1963 shall, except as otherwise provided in this act, expire on the second Monday in January, 1963."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In our opinion the intent of the legislature in enacting this section is quite clear from the plain and unambiguous language which it has used; namely, to causeexisting justice courts to continue (until the second Monday of January, 1963) to function under the laws in effect prior to June 8, 1961.  In other words we believe that justice courts existing on and prior to June 8, 1961, are to continue to be governed (until the second Monday of January, 1963) by the same statutes as governed them prior to June 8, 1961 (see chapters 3.04 ‑ 3.28 RCW)notwithstanding the enactment of provisions of the new 1961 act reorganizing the justice courts.

            In this connection it is to be noted that none of the pre‑1961 statutes governing the functioning of justice or other inferior courts have been expressly amended or repealed by this new 1961 act.  Hence they are still in effect as to existing inferior courts.

            The apparent purpose of the legislature in providing for a delay of almost two years in the matter of changes in the functioning of existing justice courts is to allow sufficient time for reorganization of the justice districts (as provided for in §§ 25 through 30) by the second Monday of January, 1963.  The 1961 act contemplates (1) that this reorganization will have been completed, and (2) that qualified (see § 15) justices of the peace will have been elected at the general election of November 1962 (see § 14); such duly qualified and elected justices of the peace to take office on the first Monday of January, 1963, for four  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] year terms commencing on that date.  In the meantime, pursuant to § 129, supra, existing justice courts are to continue functioning, as aforesaid, under the same laws as governed them prior to the effective date (June 8, 1961) of the new law.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General