State v. Smith

Decision Date15 August 1991
Docket NumberNo. 57609-2,57609-2
Citation814 P.2d 652,117 Wn.2d 263
PartiesSTATE of Washington, Respondent, v. Arthur D. SMITH, Appellant.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Washington Appellate Defender Ass'n, Patricia Novotny, Seattle, for appellant.

Norm Maleng, King County Prosecutor, Theresa L. Fricke, Sr. Appellate Atty., Seattle, for respondent.

ANDERSEN, Justice.


At issue is whether the State may seek superior court revision, i.e., review, of a nondispositive ruling made by a juvenile court commissioner. We hold that it may.

By information filed on June 7, 1988 in the juvenile division of the Superior Court for King County, the State charged Arthur D. Smith (hereafter referred to as the juvenile defendant), with robbery in the second degree. When the juvenile defendant failed to appear at a fact-finding hearing scheduled for October 4, 1988, the court ordered a warrant issued for his arrest. (The fact-finding hearing had been continued from August 15 to October 4.) The juvenile defendant was returned to custody on October 24, 1988 and ordered detained. A fact-finding hearing was then scheduled for November 17, 1988.

On October 25, 1988, defense counsel moved for the withdrawal of Deputy Prosecutor Miriam Kasperson as the prosecutor in the case because of alleged testimony she had submitted in the form of a certificate and the possibility that she would be called to testify at the juvenile defendant's trial. The certificate stemmed from the juvenile defendant's allegation that while the parties in the case were waiting for a courtroom for the August fact-finding hearing, the deputy prosecutor pointed out the defendant to the victim. When defense counsel informed the deputy prosecutor of the allegation and advised that her testimony on the issue might be necessary, the deputy prosecutor filed a certificate denying that she had pointed to the juvenile defendant. A juvenile court commissioner granted the motion requiring withdrawal of the deputy prosecutor on October 31, 1988.

On November 10, 1988, the State filed a motion asking that a superior court judge revise that ruling. On November 15, the State moved for a continuance of the fact-finding hearing set for November 17, and another juvenile court commissioner denied the continuance. The State then moved for revision of that second ruling, and for consolidation of that motion with its earlier motion for revision. The State also sought an immediate stay pending the outcome of the revision motions. The Superior Court granted the stay on November 16, 1988 and scheduled the fact-finding hearing for December 16. On November 29, the Superior Court denied revision of the commissioner's ruling requiring the deputy prosecutor to withdraw.

On November 22, the juvenile defendant moved for dismissal of the charge against him for violation of JuCR 7.8, the juvenile speedy trial rule. This rule requires that an adjudicatory hearing begin within 60 days following arraignment unless the juvenile is in custody, in which case the period is 30 days. 1 The juvenile defendant argued that his 30-day speedy trial period would expire November 24, 1988, 30 days following the detention order of October 24, 1988, and well before the adjudicatory hearing scheduled for December 16. On December 2, 1988, the Superior Court denied the motion to dismiss because of its earlier ruling granting a stay. Following the fact-finding hearing, the juvenile defendant was found guilty as charged.

The juvenile defendant then appealed the Superior Court's denial of his motion to dismiss for violation of the speedy trial rule. The Court of Appeals, in turn, certified the appeal to this court. 2

Three issues are presented.


ISSUE ONE. Does the State have the right to move for revision of a ruling by a juvenile court commissioner?

ISSUE TWO. Does the State's motion to revise a ruling by a juvenile court commissioner toll the speedy trial period?

ISSUE THREE. Does a State's right to move for revision of any ruling by a juvenile court commissioner violate state or federal equal protection guaranties?



CONCLUSION. Any party in interest, including the State, may seek revision of any order or judgment of a juvenile court commissioner.

The ability to seek revision of a juvenile court commissioner's order is rooted in the state constitution. 3 Article 4, section 23 of the Constitution of the State of Washington provides as follows:

There may be appointed in each county, by the judge of the superior court having jurisdiction therein, one or more court commissioners, not exceeding three in number, who shall have authority to perform like duties as a judge of the superior court at chambers, subject to revision by such judge, to take depositions and to perform such other business connected with the administration of justice as may be prescribed by law.

The right to seek revision of a court commissioner's order in juvenile court, a division of the superior court of this state, is provided for in the basic juvenile court act as follows:

The juvenile court shall be a division of the superior court. In judicial districts having more than one judge of the superior court, the judges of such court shall annually assign one or more of their number to the juvenile court division. In any judicial district having a court commissioner, the court commissioner shall have the power, authority, and jurisdiction, concurrent with a juvenile court judge, to hear all cases under this chapter and to enter judgment and make orders with the same power, force, and effect as any judge of the juvenile court, subject to motion or demand by any party within ten days from the entry of the order or judgment by the court commissioner as provided in RCW 2.24.050.

RCW 13.04.021(1) (part). This statute cross-references RCW 2.24.050, which explains the revision procedure.

All of the acts and proceedings of court commissioners hereunder shall be subject to revision by the superior court. Any party in interest may have such revision upon demand made by written motion, filed with the clerk of the superior court, within ten days after the entry of any order or judgment of the court commissioner. Such revision shall be upon the records of the case, and the findings of fact and conclusions of law entered by the court commissioner, and unless a demand for revision is made within ten days from the entry of the order or judgment of the court commissioner, his orders and judgments shall be and become the orders and judgments of the superior court, and from same an appeal may be taken to the supreme court or the court of appeals in all cases where an appeal will lie from like orders and judgments entered by the judge.

former RCW 2.24.050. 4

The juvenile defendant argues that the State's right of revision, as described in RCW 13.04.021 and RCW 2.24.050, is limited to seeking review of dispositive orders only, or of orders that effectively terminate prosecution in a given case. Thus, according to this argument, the State wrongfully sought revision of the commissioner's order requiring the deputy prosecutor to withdraw because it was an interlocutory or nondispositive order.

The juvenile defendant contends that the State's right to move for revision is subject to the same limitations as its right to appeal. Specifically, he argues that the limitations on the State's right to appeal set forth in RAP 2.2(b) should apply to its right of revision as well. RAP 2.2(b) largely limits the State to appealing superior court decisions that abate a criminal case. 5 The juvenile defendant also points to case law which discourages the filing of interlocutory appeals. As this court has stated many times, unless authorized by statute, the State may not appeal an order that does not abate or determine an action. 6

The juvenile defendant acknowledges the seemingly sweeping language setting forth the right of revision in RCW 2.24.050, but argues that the statute nevertheless should be read to allow the State to seek revision only of a commissioner's order that is, in effect, an appealable order. The State counters that the plain meaning of RCW 2.24.050 and RCW 13.04.021 cannot be overlooked, and that the statutes make clear that either the State or a defendant may seek review of rulings made by a court commissioner, final or not.

We have stated repeatedly that if a statute is unambiguous, its meaning must be derived from its actual language. "If the language is not ambiguous, there is no need for judicial interpretation. Words are given the meaning provided by the statute or, in the absence of specific definition, their ordinary meaning." (Citation omitted.) 7

Neither RCW 13.04.021 nor RCW 2.24.050 limits the State's right to seek revision in the manner the juvenile defendant urges. Both statutes provide that "any party" may seek revision of a court commissioner's order. RCW 2.24.050 also states that revision may be demanded after the entry of "any order" or judgment of the court commissioner. In case these phrases are not sufficiently clear, Washington courts have repeatedly construed the word "any" to mean "every" and "all". 8 RCW 2.24.050 further provides that all acts of court commissioners shall be subject to revision. Use of the word "shall" in a statute is imperative and generally operates to create a duty. 9

In a further attempt to avoid what we perceive to be the plain meaning of RCW 13.04.021 and RCW 2.24.050, the juvenile defendant urges us to hold that a demand for revision may be sought only after a final order is entered even though both statutes simply refer to revision of a commissioner's "orders". The defendant cites the dictionary definition of "final order" but ignores the fact that "order" also has a dictionary definition: "A mandate; precept; command or direction authoritatively given; rule or regulation. Direction of a court or judge made or entered in writing, and not included in a...

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