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AGLO 1978 No. 35 - October 27, 1978
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- DATA PROCESSING AUTHORITY ‑- COURTS ‑- ACQUISITION OF DATA PROCESSING EQUIPMENT

(1) The Washington Supreme Court, acting through the Office of the Administrator for the Courts, is governed by the provisions of RCW 43.105.041(5) which prohibit ". . . agencies and institutions of state government . . ." from acquiring data processing equipment without a delegation of authority from the Washington State Data Processing Authority.

(2) The Data Processing Authority may delegate such authority to the Supreme Court and/or the Office of the Administrator for the Courts under appropriate standards.

(3) While the Supreme Court may adopt its own rules governing the use of data processing equipment within the courts, once acquired, it may not by so doing, supersede the provision of RCW 43.105.041(5) relative to acquisition.

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

                                                                October 27, 1978

Honorable Terrence E. Wold
Acting Director
Washington State Data Processing Authority
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1978 No. 35

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested the opinion of this office on three questions which we paraphrase as follows:

            (1) Is the Washington Supreme Court, acting through the Office of the Administrator for the Courts, governed by the provisions of RCW 43.105.041(5) which prohibit ". . . agencies and institutions of state government . . ."  from acquiring data processing equipment without a delegation of authority from the Washington State Data Processing Authority?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            (2) Assuming an affirmative answer to question (1), may the Data Processing Authority delegate such authority to the Supreme Court and/or the Office of the Administrator for the Courts under appropriate standards?

            (3) May the Supreme Court adopt its own rules governing the use of data processing equipment within the courts and, by so doing, supersede the provisions of RCW 43.105.041(5)?

            We answer questions (1) and (2) in the affirmative and question (3) in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            By its enactment of chapter 219, Laws of 1973, 1st Ex. Sess., the legislature created the Washington State Data Processing Authority.  This legislation is now codified in chapter 43.105 RCW.  Your inquiry involves certain of the powers and functions of this agency under § 6 of the act, now codified as RCW 43.105.041.  Specifically, your concern is with so much of that section as provides that:

            "The authority shall have the following powers and duties:

            ". . .

            "(5) To purchase, lease, rent, or otherwise acquire and maintain automatic data processing equipment,or to delegate to other agencies and institutions of state government, under appropriate standards, the authority to purchase, lease, rent, or otherwise acquire and maintain automatic data processing equipment:  PROVIDED, That in exercising such authority due consideration and effect shall be given to the overall purpose of this chapter and the statutory obligations, total management, and needs of each agency:  PROVIDED, FURTHER,That, agencies and institutions of state government are expressly prohibited from acquiring data processing equipment without such delegation of authority.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The acquisition of automatic data processing equipment is exempt, as provided in RCW 43.19.1901, from the provisions of RCW 43.19.190 through 43.19.210;

            ". . ." (Emphasis supplied)

            Question (1):

            The critical issue raised by your first question is whether the Washington Supreme Court and/or the Office of the Court Administrator are ". . . agencies and institutions of state government . . ." within the meaning of RCW 43.105.041(5), supra.  In our opinion this question is answerable in the affirmative.

            First to be noted is the following apparently all encompassing definition of the term "state agency" which is contained in RCW 43.105.020(5):

            "(5) 'State agency' means all offices, departments, agencies, institutions, and commissions of state government . . ."

            Secondly, we find in RCW 43.105.010, codifying § 1 of chapter 219,supra, a statement of legislative purpose which expressly includes coverage of all three branches of state and local government.  This section reads, in full, as follows:

            "It is the purpose of this chapter to provide, through the Washington state data processing authority, for the efficient and coordinated utilization of data processing equipment, techniques, and personnel to achieve optimum effectiveness and economy in collection, storage, interchange, retrieval, processing, and transmission of information; to authorize development, implementation, and maintenance of a coordinated state‑wide plan for data processing and data communications systems; to achieve consolidation of automated data processing resources and centralization of control over automated data processing;and to ensure that automated data processing systems shall serve the management and other needs of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of state and local government." (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            And thirdly, we note that this same basic theme of all encompassing coverage is further carried forward by § 2 of chapter 219, supra, now codified as RCW 43.105.016, which reads as follows:

            "It is the intention of the legislature that this chapter shall form the basis for the formulation of a long range state automated data processing plan to satisfy the requirements of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of state government.  Each legislative, executive, and judicial agency of state government shall study and define its automated data processing requirements in order that the plan allow for the unique requirements of each branch.  All agencies of state government are required to cooperate with and support the development and implementation of this plan.  To effectuate this intention, the state data processing authority shall have the authority to direct and require the submittal of data from all state agencies, including data from the state auditor, concerning local government agencies.  In addition, the state auditor shall conduct a fiscal‑-legal audit of the completion of the tasks for the authority specified by RCW 43.105.043, and the legislative budget committee, or its successor, shall conduct a performance audit of such tasks."

            On the basis of these express provisions of the law it is our opinion that your first question is answerable in the affirmative; i.e., the Washington Supreme Court, acting through the Office of the Administrator for the Courts, is governed by the provisions of RCW 43.105.041(5) which prohibit ". . . agencies and institutions of state government . . ." from acquiring data processing equipment without a delegation of authority from the Washington State Data Processing Authority.

            Before proceeding to your remaining questions, both of which presuppose this answer to question (1), there is an intervening issue which we should briefly discuss.  As we understand it, it has been argued, informally, by the court administrator that the legislature's inclusion of the judiciary under what is  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] now chapter 43.105 RCW violates the constitutional separation of powers doctrine which, although not expressly set forth in the Washington Constitution, has really been enunciated by the court in In Re Juvenile Director, 87 Wn.2d 232, 552 P.2d 163 (1976).  From the standpoint of this office, however, there are two separate and distinct answers to any such argument.  First, we are constrained by considerations of longstanding office policy to attach a presumption of constitutionality to any duly enacted state legislation such as this and to refrain from rendering an official attorney general's opinion thereon.  Accord, AGO 1971 No. 12, copy enclosed.  And secondly, as we read it, the court's decision in In Re Juvenile Director, supra, actually seems more supportive of our affirmative answer to your first question than otherwise.  Under the reasoning of that decision, it is not an intrusion upon the exclusive powers and functions of the judicial branch of government for an agency of the executive branch to be called upon by the legislature to be responsible for the acquisition of its required equipment or furnishings.1/

             Question (2):

            Having thus answered your first question in the affirmative we turn to your second which, repeated for ease of reference, asks:

            Assuming an affirmative answer to question (1), may the Data Processing Authority delegate its power to the supreme court and/or the Office of the Administrator for the Courts under appropriate standards?

            Under the same express language of RCW 43.105.041(5), supra, as served as the basis for our answer to your initial question, this question is also answerable in the affirmative. Once again, the critical language of the statute reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            "The authority shall have the following powers and duties:

            ". . .

            "(5) To purchase, lease, rent, or otherwise acquire and maintain automatic data processing equipment,or to delegate to other agencies and institutions of state government, under appropriate standards, the authority to purchase, lease, rent, or otherwise acquire and maintain automatic data processing equipment:  PROVIDED, That in exercising such authority due consideration and effect shall be given to the overall purpose of this chapter and the statutory obligations, total management, and needs of each agency:  PROVIDED, FURTHER, That,agencies and institutions of state government are expressly prohibited from acquiring data processing equipment without such delegation of authority.  The acquisition of automatic data processing equipment is exempt, as provided in RCW 43.19.1901, from the provisions of RCW 43.19.190 through 43.19.210;

            ". . ." (Emphasis supplied)

            Question (3):

            Finally, in anticipation of the foregoing answers to both of your first questions, you have inquired as follows:

            May the Supreme Court adopt its own rules governing the use of data processing equipment within the courts and, by so doing, supersede the provisions of RCW 43.105.041(5)?

            It is, of course, well settled that the Supreme Court has the power, both inherent and statutory, to adopt rules of procedure relating, generally, to the internal operations of the judicial system.  See, RCW 2.04.1902/  andState ex rel. Foster-Wyman Lumber Co. v. Superior Court, 148 Wash. 1, 267 P.2d 770 (1928).  Moreover, at least in the case of such rules  [[Orig. Op. Page 7]] of procedure as are thus adopted under the authority of RCW 2.04.190, those rules, when validly promulgated, supersede ". . . all laws in conflict therewith . . ." RCW 2.04.200.  Given those propositions, however, we would nevertheless respond to your final question in the negative.  We do not believe that a rule designed to override the express provisions of RCW 43.105.041(5),supra, with respect to the manner of acquisition of data processing equipment by the state for the use of its various agencies could properly be labelled as an internal rule of procedure such as the supreme court is empowered to adopt.  Clearly, such a rule would not come within the scope of RCW 2.04.190,supra, and it would likewise be beyond what we understand to be the court's inherent rulemaking authority on matters pertaining to the internal administration of the state judiciary.  To conclude otherwise would be to characterize the supreme court as being possessed of suchlegislative authority as would, indeed, be in contravention of the doctrine of separation of powers.  In Re Juvenile Director,supra; cf.,State ex. rel. Foster-Wyman Lumber Co. v. Superior Court, supra.

            Furthermore, it is also important to note, in any event, that the question is purely hypothetical at this time.  Although it is true that the Supreme Court has adopted a set of rules identified as the Judicial Information System Committee Rules (JISCR), nothing in those rules purports to cover the initial acquisition of data processing equipment.  Instead, the rules only relate to the internal management or control of certain data processing equipment once such equipment has been acquired for the courts.  See, in particular, JISCR 14 which reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 8]]

            "Data processing for courts shall be processed on computer equipment managed and controlled by the courts.  In exceptional instances where extreme care has been taken to ensure the integrity of the internal function of the courts, explicit approval may be obtained from the Supreme Court upon the recommendation of the Administrator for the Courts and the Judicial Information System Committee, to utilize facilities not totally managed and controlled by the courts."

            Conceivably, since this rule provides for the courts themselves to manage and control their own equipment whereas the Data Processing Authority is empowered by RCW 43.105.041(4) to require ". . . the coordinated acquisition and maintenance of data processing equipment and services," a conflict between the rule and DPA policy could arise at some point in the future.  We will not, however, here speculate on that possibility or how it would then be resolved for that could possibly depend upon factors unknown to us at this time.

            This, then, completes our consideration of your questions.  We trust that the foregoing has been of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/We have also read, with interest, Opinion of the Justices, 365 Mass. 639, 309 N.E.2d 476 (1974), an advisory opinion of the Massachusetts Supreme Court to the effect that certain similar legislation, then being considered by the Massachusetts legislature, would be violative of the "separation of powers" doctrine expressly enunciated in Article XXX of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution.  However, even if we were not bound by the above‑explained policy regarding the constitutionality of all duly-enacted legislation in this state, we would be unpersuaded by the reasoning of that advisory opinion to come to a conclusion contrary to that which we have above stated in the instant case.

2/RCW 2.04.190 reads as follows:

            "The supreme court shall have the power to prescribe, from time to time, the forms of writs and all other process, the mode and manner of framing and filing proceedings and pleadings; of giving notice and serving [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]writs and process of all kinds; of taking and obtaining evidence; of drawing up, entering and enrolling orders and judgments; and generally to regulate and prescribe by rule the forms for and the kind and character of the entire pleading, practice and procedure to be used in all suits, actions, appeals and proceedings of whatever nature by the supreme court, superior courts and justices of the peace of the state.  In prescribing such rules the supreme court shall have regard to the simplification of the system of pleading, practice and procedure in said courts to promote the speedy determination of litigation on the merits."

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