Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1986 No. 2 - Jan 29 1986
Attorney General Ken Eikenberry


RCW 60.12.070 contemplates laborers' and landlords' liens on crops be filed for record which requires recording procedures, not filing.

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                                                                 January 29, 1986 

Honorable Paul Klasen
Prosecuting Attorney
County of Grant
P.O. Box 37
Ephrata, Washington 98823

 Cite as:  AGO 1986 No. 2                                                                                                                 

 Dear Sir:

             By letter previously acknowledged you asked our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

             Does RCW 60.12.070 as amended by § 11, chapter 44, Laws of 1985 contemplate that laborers' and landlords' liens on crops be recorded rather than filed with the county auditor?

             We respond to your question in the manner set forth in our analysis.


             Chapter 44, Laws of 1985 relates primarily to the duties of county auditors respecting recording and filing.  Section 11 thereof amends RCW 60.12.070 as follows:

           "Every such instrument shall be filed in the office of the county auditor who shall index ((the same in a book kept for that purpose as chattel mortages))them in the same manner as deeds and other conveyances are required by law to be indexed, and for which he shall receive the same fees as are required by law for ((filing)) recording and indexing ((chattel mortgages)) deeds and other conveyances.

              [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            To determine the meaning of the term "filed" as used in RCW 60.12.070, it is necessary to refer to the entirety of chapter 60.12 RCW and consider the word in its historical context and in the context of the related sections.  State ex rel. Tarver v. Smith, 78 Wn.2d 152, 470 P.2d 172, cert. denied 91 S.Ct. 2175, 402 U.S. 1000, 29 L.Ed.2d 166 (1971).

             RCW 60.12.040 requires crop liens to be filed for record.  This requirement was present in the original 1927 enactment, § 4, chapter 256, Laws of 1927:

             "Every person claiming a lien, under the provisions of this act, for work and labor done, and every landlord claiming a lien, under the provisions of this act, for rent, or the faithful performance of the lease, must . . . file for record in the office of the county auditor of the county in which the crop upon which the lien is claimed is growing or was grown, a claim of lien, . . ."

             At the same time, RCW 60.12.070 provided that crop liens be recorded:

             "The county auditor must record any claim filed under the provisions of this act, in a book kept for that purpose, which record must be indexed, as deeds and other conveyances are required by law to be indexed, and for which he shall receive the same fees as are required by law for recording deeds and other instruments."  § 6, chapter 256, Laws of 1927.

             Consistent with these provisions, the 1927 recording statutes (chapter 65.04 RCW) made it clear that the recording directive, supra, meant transcribing and retaining the transcribed copy of the instrument.  See, for example, the 1919 version of RCW 65.04.030(7) which provided that county auditors were to "record."

             "All such other papers or writings as are required by law to be recorded and such as are required by law to be filed if requested to do so by the party filing the same."

             In 1933, RCW 60.12.070 was amended by the deletion of the recording requirement and the substitution of a filing requirement:

             "Every such instrument shall be filed in the office of the county auditor who shall index the same in a book  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] kept for that purpose as chattel mortgages are required by law to be indexed, . . ."  § 2, chapter 33, Laws of 1933.

             The third legislative act of note was the enactment in 1955 of RCW 60.12.190 which, for the first time, provided for seed liens in addition to laborer and landlord crop liens.  Consistent with RCW 60.12.070, as amended in 1933, the 1955 version of RCW 60.12.190 provided that seed lien claims were to be ". . . file(d) in the manner required for filing chattel mortgages. . . ."

             In 1965, the legislature made significant and sweeping changes to the perfection of security interests in personal property by adopting the Uniform Commercial Code (which was to become effective July 1, 1967).  With the adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code, chapter 61.04 RCW authorizing chattel mortgages and requiring their filing, was repealed.  As a result, chattel mortgages met their demise:  the things simply ceased to have any legal significance.  The effect of the repealer was to render virtually meaningless other statutory references to perfecting an interest in the same manner as that required for chattel mortgages.

             In 1967, the registry statutes were amended to require the recording of all instruments required by law to be either recorded or filed.  The county auditor was required to record:

             "(3) ((7)) All such other papers or writings as are required by law to be recorded and such as are required by law to be filed ((if requested to do so by the party filing the same))."  (§ 1, chapter 98, Laws of 1967)

             RCW 65.04.030(3) has remained unchanged since 1967.

             This brings us to the 1985 amendments.  In addition to amending RCW 60.12.070, which is the focus of your inquiry, the 1985 legislature also amended RCW 60.12.190 by the elimination of all filing requirements for seed liens and substituting a recording requirement:

             "A person claiming a seed lien shall, within sixty days after delivering the seed to the owner purchasing the seed, or his agent, ((file)) record in the manner required for ((filing chattel mortgages)) recording deeds and other conveyances a claim of lien subscribed and verified by the claimant or someone on his behalf, to the effect that affiant believes the claim to be just.  Such  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] ((filing))recording shall be with the county auditor of the county in which the real property is situated and the crop is to be grown or is growing.  The county auditor shall ((file)) record and index the claims of lien on the crop in ((a book kept for that purpose)) the same manner and for the same fee as required for ((chattel mortgages)) recording and indexing deeds and other conveyances."  § 12, chapter 44, Laws of 1985.

            Thus, as the statutes now read, RCW 60.12.040 requires "filing for record."  RCW 60.12.070 refers only to "filing."  RCW 60.12.190, as amended, requires "recording."

             These superficial, semantical inconsistencies notwithstanding, the current provisions of these statutory sections can be reconciled and the provisions of each section read in harmony with the others.

             No case law is directly instructive on the definition of these terms.  One older case, however, is of some assistance.  Ritchie v. Griffiths, 1 Wash. 429 (1890) provides some insight through the court's construction of early registry statutes similar to the present chapter 65.04 RCW (recording of deeds and other instruments of writing).  The court outlines the three steps necessary for perfecting public notice of deeds and other instruments affecting real estate:

             ". . . The act points out several successive steps to be taken by the auditor when the instrument comes into his possession, before his duty with reference to it is accomplished.  1st.  He mustfile it for record, noting the time when it was presented for record.  2d.  Record it in a fair, legible hand, in a book provided by the county for that purpose.  3d.  Correctlyenter it into an index book, provided for that purpose, showing the time of reception, name of the grantor and grantee, nature of the instrument, volume and page where recorded, and description of the property.  And all three of these successive steps must be taken before the record is complete. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied)Ritchie, supra, at 438.

             As we understand the present status of the law, then, "filing" is commonly understood to mean the permanent placement of a document with the appropriate officer.  Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (1979) defines it as meaning ". . .[t]o deliver an instrument  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] or other paper to the proper officer or official for the purpose of being kept on file by him as a matter of record and reference in the proper place. . . ."  The effect is to make the original, filed document itself a matter of public record.

             To "record," on the other hand, generally means to copy or reproduce an instrument temporarily deposited for that purpose.  See RCW 65.04.040 which provides:

             ". . .

             "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, . . . or other process which actually reproduces or forms a durable medium for so reproducing the original, . . ."

             See also Black's Law Dictionary, 5th ed. (1979) which defines "record" as meaning ". . . [t]o make an official note of; to write, transcribe, or enter in a book, file, docket, register, computer tape or disc, or the like, for the purpose of preserving authentic evidence of. . . ."

             To "file for record" is a supplementary phrase expressing inversely the meaning of "record"; that is, the temporary repository of an instrument for the purpose of having it reproduced and the copy retained as a matter of public notice (the "record").  (See RCW 65.04.090 which speaks in terms of returning the originals to the party "leaving the same for record."  See also RCW 65.04.110, RCW 60.04.060, and RCW 60.04.070.)

             Turning to the intent of the terms as used in chapter 60.12 RCW, it would seem inconsistent to require those claiming a lien to "file for record" (RCW 60.12.040) and at the same time require the auditor to "file" the claim (RCW 60.12.070) as the term "file" is commonly understood.  It appears, then, the requirement that laborers' and landlords' liens be "filed in the office of the county auditor," as used in RCW 60.12.070, must mean "filed for record."

             We arrive at this opinion in large measure by considering the historical development,supra, of the various filing and recording requirements.  It appears that the 1985 legislature intended to bring chapter 60.12 RCW in line with the provisions of RCW 65.04.030(3)  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] and to harmonize chapter 60.12 RCW with the 1965 enactment which repealed the chattel mortgage concept and related filing requirements.  The net effect, then, of the 1985 legislation is to reinstate the original 1927 requirement that laborer and landlord liens be recorded and indexed.

             We conclude, then, that the term "filed" as it appears in RCW 60.12.070 means to file the claim of lien for record.  This means that the original document must be presented to the county auditor for the purpose of recording,i.e., duplicating the original (by whatever authorized means).  The auditor must then return the original to the party claiming the lien and, finally, the auditor must then index the lien in the same manner as deeds as other conveyances.

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

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General