Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1982 No. 18 -
Attorney General Ken Eikenberry


An attorney who is not also an elected justice of the peace, but who is appointed as the police judge of a code city under RCW 35A.20.020, does not thereby gain the powers of a justice of the peace as well.

                                                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                    July 26, 1982

Honorable Jack Metcalf
St. Sen., 10th District
3273 E. Saratoga Road
Langley, WA 98260                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1982 No. 18

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter your requested our opinion on the following question:

            "Does an attorney, who is not elected Justice of the Peace, but who is appointed a police judge under RCW 35A-20-020 [35A.20.020], gain the powers of a Justice of the Peace under RCW 35A-20-040 [35A.20.040]?"

            We answer the foregoing question in the negative.


            RCW 35A.20.020 provides for the appointment of a police judge, or municipal judge, in certain cities operating under the Optional Municipal Code.  Specifically, it provides, in material part, as follows:

            "In code cities not governed by any of the provisions referred to in RCW 35A.20.010 but governed by this chapter, a police judge (who may be designated as municipal judge) shall be appointed by the chief administrative officer of the city and shall be a justice of the peace or an attorney admitted to the practice of law in the state of Washington, except that the  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] legislative body of cities having less than five thousand inhabitants may provide that a person who is not a justice of the peace or an attorney may be appointed as police judge. . . ."

            In turn the other statute referred to in your letter, RCW 35A.20.040, states that:

            "The police judge,in addition to powers he may have as justice of the peace, shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all offenses defined by any ordinance of the city, and all other actions brought to enforce or recover any license, penalty, or forfeiture declared or given by any such ordinance, . . ."  (Emphasis supplied)

            Your question arises by reason of the underscored portion of this last quoted statute.  In our opinion, however, that portion of the statute only applies where the police judge is, in addition, a justice of the peace.  If, instead, the police judge is an attorney but not a justice of the peace, he would have no powers as a justice of the peace.  Rather, such an appointed police judge‑-who is not also a justice of the peace‑-would be limited only to police court judicial powers.

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

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General