A state official has formally asked Attorney General Rob McKenna for an opinion on whether counties can legally eliminate vacant Superior Court positions.
The move follows the Pierce County Council’s decision last month to eliminate the post vacated by Judge Michael Hecht. That decision was criticized as illegal by the prosecuting attorney’s office and the local bar association. County Executive Pat McCarthy vetoed the measure, but the council unanimously voted to overturn the veto.
Council members say state law gives them the authority to determine the number of Superior Court seats.
Now state court administrator Jeff Hall has asked McKenna for an opinion. The attorney general’s office on Tuesday requested public comment on the question: “When an existing, authorized superior court judge position becomes vacant, does the county have authority to eliminate the position?”
The notice – published in an online forum for people interested in attorney general’s opinions – states people interested in commenting on the issue should contact the office by Dec. 25. The office requests comment “when it appears that individuals outside the Attorney General’s Office have information or expertise that will assist in the preparation of a particular opinion.” See more details below.
The notice does not state when the attorney general will issue an opinion. In a recent e-mail, spokesman Dan Sytman said the office can take up to 90 days to issue an opinion once it’s received a formal request.
You can read the full attorney general’s notice below. Thanks to Curt Woodward of the Associated Press, Amy Howard of Washbucket and Jason Mercier of the Washington Policy Center for the heads up on this.
NOTICE OF REQUEST FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OPINION
WASHINGTON ATTORNEY GENERAL
The Washington Attorney General issues formal published opinions in response to requests by the heads of state agencies, state legislators, and county prosecuting attorneys. When it appears that individuals outside the Attorney General’s Office have information or expertise that will assist in the preparation of a particular opinion, a summary of that opinion request will be published in the opinion listserv. If you are interested in commenting on a request listed here, you should notify the Attorney General’s Office of your interest by December 25, 2009. This is not the due date by which comments must be received. However, if you do not notify the Attorney General’s Office of your interest in commenting on an opinion request by this date, the opinion may be issued before your comments have been received. You may notify the Attorney General’s Office of your intention to comment by calling (360) 586-0728, or by writing to the Office of the Attorney General, Solicitor General Division, Attention Jeff Even, Deputy Solicitor General, P.O. Box 40100, Olympia, Washington 98504-0100. When you notify the office of your intention to comment, you may be provided with a copy of the opinion request in which you are interested; information about the Attorney General’s Opinion process; information on how to submit your comments; and a due date by which your comments must be received to ensure that they are fully considered.
The Attorney General’s Office seeks public input on the following opinion request(s):
Opinion Docket No. 09-12-01
Request by the Honorable Jeff Hall
State Court Administrator
Question(s). When an existing, authorized superior court judge position becomes vacant, does the county have authority to eliminate the position?