Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1962 No. 158 - Aug 29 1962
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


The various subsections of § 1, chapter 262, Laws of 1961 (RCW 58.18.010), became operative only where the requisite maps are maintained by the assessor and he has, with the permission of the county commissioners, filed an assessor's plat.

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                                                                 August 29, 1962

Honorable Paul Klasen
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 158

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Does subsection 5 of § 1, chapter 262, Laws of 1961 (RCW 58.18.010) become operative only where the county assessor, with the permission of the county commissioners, files an assessor's plat of the county, which becomes the official plat?

            We answer your question in the affirmative as explained in our analysis.


            During its last session our legislature passed chapter 262, Laws of 1961, an act relating to legal descriptions of real property.  Section 1, codified as RCW 58.18.010, reads as follows:

            "In any county where an assessor has and maintains an adequate set of maps drawn from surveys at a scale of not less than two hundred feet to the inch, the assessor may with the permission of the county commissioners, file an assessor's plat of the area, which when filed shall become the official plat for all legal purposes, provided:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "(1) The plat is filed in the offices of the county auditor and the county assessor, together with a list of the existing legal descriptions and a list of the new legal descriptions as assigned by the county assessor;

            "(2) The recorded plat is drawn in such a manner that a ready reference can be made to the legal description in existence prior to the time of the filing of the assessor's plat and in conformance with existing statutes;

            "(3) The first year the tax roll and tax statement shall contain the prior legal description and the new legal description as assigned and shown on the assessor's plat with a notation that this legal description shall be used for all purposes;

            "(4) The county assessor shall maintain an index for reference to the prior and the existing legal descriptions of the parcels contained in the assessor's plats;

            "(5)Each dedicated plat after the effective date of this act shall be submitted to the county assessor of the county wherein the plat is located, for the sole purpose of assignment of parcel, tract, block and or lot numbers and the county auditor shall not accept any such plat for filing unless the said plat carries a signed affidavit from the assessor to this effect, and a statement to the effect that the name of the plat shall be number . . . in the county of . . . . . . . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Our court has stated that the intent of the legislature is the controlling factor in construing a statute.  King Cy. Etc. Ass'n v. State Etc. Bd., 54 Wn. (2d) 1, 336 P. (2d) 387 (1959).  In arriving at the intent, the first resort of the court is to the context and subject matter of the legislation because the intention of the lawmakers is to be deduced, if possible, from what it said.  Hatzenbuhler v. Harrison, 49 Wn. (2d) 691, 306 P. (2d) 745 (1957).  And, of course, legislative intent must be gleaned from a consideration of the whole act without any undue emphasis being placed on only a part thereof.  See,DeGrief v. Seattle, 50 Wn. (2d) 1, 297 P. (2d) 940 (1956).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Applying these rules it is apparent from the face of the act, that the statute is not self-executing, but becomes operative only when the assessor,with the permission of the county commissioners, files the plat where the other conditions are met.  From this it follows that, unless the required maps are maintained and unless the county commissioners elect to grant the necessary permission to bring the county within the provisions of the act, the system of platting in Grant county (or any other county) as it heretofore existed remains unchanged.

            In respect to subsection (5) of § 1, supra, it is our opinion that it, like the other four preceding subsections, operates only after the new system of filing has been adopted by the assessor with the permission of the county commissioners.  There seems to be little doubt that this is true in respect to the first four subsections, but some question has been raised as to whether subsection (5), although phrased as a "proviso" should be construed to enlarge the scope of the act or to assume the function of an independent section.  McKenzie v. Mukilteo Water District, 4 Wn. (2d) 103, 102 P. (2d) 251 (1940).

            While we recognize there is authority to support said position, we cannot accept the same as truly evidencing the intent of the legislature.  This is particularly true when the statute is read in its entirety and considered in the light of existing platting laws.  For example, if subsection (5), § 1, supra, were to operate even though the county commissioners had not given their permission for the new system of filing to become effective, there would not, in law, be any recognized assessor plat which would ". . . become the official plat for all legal purposes . . ." to use as a point of reference in assigning parcel, tract, block or lot numbers.

            In view of the fact that our legislature will convene again in January, 1963, you may feel it desirable to recommend to legislators in your area that legislation be introduced to clarify the confusion which has arisen because of the 1961 statute.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General