Honorable Jonathan Whetzel
State Senator, 43rd Dist.
1511 East Olin Place
Seattle, Washington 98102
Cite as: AGLO 1971 No. 103 (not official)
By recent letter you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:
Does the board of governors of the Washington State Bar Association constitute the governing body of a public agency for the purposes of chapter 250, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess., commonly known as the "open meetings act"?
We answer this question in the affirmative.
The definitional terms in the open meetings act pertinent to your inquiry are found in § 2, chapter 250, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess., as follows:
"As used in this act unless the context indicates otherwise:
"(1) 'Public agency' means:
"(a) Any state board, commission, committee, department, educational institution or other state agency which is created by or pursuant to statute, other than courts and the legislature.
". . .
"(2) 'Governing body' means the multimember board, commission, committee, council or other policy or rule‑making body of a public agency.
". . ."
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
The 1933 legislature enacted the state bar act, chapter 94, Laws of 1933 (now codified as chapter 2.48 RCW). That act specifically states:
"There is hereby created as an agency of the state, for the purpose and with the powers hereinafter set forth, an association to be known as the Washington State Bar Association, . . ."
It therefore appears clear that the Washington State Bar Association is a state agency created by statute and thus is a public agency within the meaning of the 1971 open meetings act. This conclusion is consistent with an earlier opinion of this office to the Honorable Robert V. Graham, State Auditor, dated June 17, 1969 (a copy of which is enclosed), in which we concluded that the Washington State Bar Association was a state agency subject to audit by the state auditor.
We are cognizant that "courts and the legislature" are specifically exempted from the definition of "public agency" in § 2, chapter 250, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess. We are further aware that some of the actions of the bar association, particularly in the areas of admission and disbarment must be in accordance with rules adopted by the state supreme court (see, RCW 2.48.060). However, we do not believe that the existence of that relationship makes the bar association a part of the "courts." Thus, the bar association is not entitled to the exemption from the definition of "public agency" granted to the "courts and the legislature."
The state bar act provides that the bar association shall be governed by the board of governors, which is charged with the executive functions of the association and the enforcement of the provisions of RCW 2.48.010-2.48.180. (RCW 2.48.040.) The board of governors itself consists of one member from each Congressional district and a president who is an ex officio member (RCW 2.48.030). The board of governors of the Washington State Bar Association, consisting of eight members, including the president, is thus clearly a "governing body" as defined in the open meetings act (§ 2, chapter 250, Laws of 1971, 1st Ex. Sess.). It is therefore clear that the new public meetings act applies to the board of governors of the Washington State Bar Association.
We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.