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AGO 1950 No. 316 - August 03, 1950
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

PROSECUTING ATTORNEY ‑- CORONER IN FOURTH CLASS AND LOWER CLASS COUNTIES.

The prosecuting attorney in a fourth class or lower classification county has no authority to appoint a deputy coroner.

In cases where such prosecuting attorney has a duly appointed, qualified, and acting deputy, the prosecuting attorney could properly delegate to such deputy the performance of any duty as to coroner cases which might otherwise devolve upon the prosecuting attorney.

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                                                                  August 3, 1950

Honorable Robert S. Campbell
Prosecuting Attorney
Grant County
Ephrata, Washington                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 49-51 No. 316

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of July 5, 1950, in which you ask the following question:

            Has the prosecuting attorney in a fourth or fifth class county the authority to appoint deputy coroners?  If so, are there any necessary qualifications and also, must they be bonded?

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            The prosecuting attorney in a fourth class or lower classification county has no authority to appoint a deputy coroner.

            In cases where such prosecuting attorney has a duly appointed, qualified, and acting deputy, the prosecuting attorney could properly delegate to such deputy the performance of any duty as to coroner cases which might otherwise devolve upon the prosecuting attorney.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Your question reads:

            "Will you please advise me whether or not the Prosecuting Attorney in a fourth or fifth class county has the authority to appoint deputy coroners.  If so, are there any necessary qualifications and also, must they be bonded?"

            Prior to the passage of section 2, chapter 148, Laws of 1925 Ex. Sess. (4200-2 Rem. Rev. Stat.), coroners were elected in all classes of counties.  The 1925 law provided that the duties of the coroner were consolidated with those of prosecuting attorneys in all counties below the third class.  In an opinion to the prosecuting attorney of Island County, dated November 23, 1926, we held that the effect of the above law was not to abolish the office of coroner but continue the offices of prosecuting attorney and coroner as separate, distinct, and unchanged offices; except, that one person holds both offices instead of the offices being held by two persons.  In an opinion to the prosecuting attorney of Wahkiakum County, dated April 15, 1927, where there was no deputy prosecuting attorney, we held directly that no deputy coroner may be appointed, but that if the elected coroner is unable to attend an inquest or perform other duties required by law, such duties must be performed by a Justice of the Peace.  We enclose copies of both such opinions.

            Section 1, chapter 136, Laws of 1933, changed the classifications of counties.  Section 2 of the act (4200-2a Rem. Rev. Stat. Supp.) is substantially a reenactment of section 4200-2,supra, making only a slight change in some of the lower classifications.

            We, therefore, believe that the only answer that can be given to your question as worded is that a prosecuting attorney has no power to appoint a deputy coroner.

            However, in your particular case, you have a deputy prosecuting attorney.  Since the duties of coroner are now to be performed by the prosecuting attorney, and section 4200-2,supra, specifically provides that the prosecuting attorney in the counties listed shall

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "* * * Exercise all the powers and perform all the duties now, or that may be, by law vested in or imposed upon the coroner of such county, * * *"

            and since you have a duly appointed, qualified, and acting deputy prosecuting attorney, it would seem to follow that you could properly delegate to such deputy the performance of any duty as to coroner cases which might otherwise devolve upon you as prosecuting attorney.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

GEORGE DOWNER
Assistant Attorney General

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