WA – Clark v Stevens County – USDC EDWA – Dismissed

The judge denies Clark’s filings and observes that his claims that the Judges were usurping their offices because they had not timely filed their oaths.  Citing State v. Stephenson, 89 Wn.App. 794, 808, 950 P.2d 38 (1998), the judge rejected Clark’s claims:

[21] Oath – Judges – Oath of Office – Filed With Secretary of State – Necessity. Under RCW 2.08.080, the filing of an oath with the Secretary of State is not a condition precedent to assuming the duties of a superior court judge; nor does a failure to file the oath disqualify a superior court judge from office.

Clark v. Stevens County

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON

February 3, 2010

JIMMY ELLIS CLARK, PETITIONER,
v.
STEVENS COUNTY, ET AL., RESPONDENTS.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lonny R. Suko Chief U. S. District Court Judge

ORDER DISMISSING PETITION SUPERIOR COURT

The pro se Petitioner has filed a “Petition For A Writ Of Review” (Ct. Rec. 1). He had been allowed to proceed in forma pauperis (Ct. Rec. 3). The undersigned has reviewed the petition for legal sufficiency and concludes it is not legally sufficient and therefore, should be dismissed and not served upon Respondents.

According to Petitioner, he filed a Petition for Writ of Prohibition with the Washington Supreme Court, and filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis in conjunction therewith, which was denied without explanation. Petitioner claims the state supreme court justices, at least those who denied his motion to proceed in forma pauperis, did not have jurisdiction to hear and determine the motion because their “oaths of office were taken after their terms began and were not filed until a number of days later.” Therefore, Petitioner say the denial of his motion to proceed in forma pauperis is void. Petitioner asserts [s]tate and/or Federal law require the oath of office be taken and filed before assuming the duties of office.”

Assuming the “Writ Of Review” which the Petitioner seeks is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1651, the next issue is whether this court has federal question jurisdiction for alleged violations of the United States Constitution (Article VI, Clause 3*fn1 and 4 U.S.C. Sections 101 and 102*fn2 , and that these provisions somehow incorporate the particular requirements of RCW 2.04.080 at issue here.*fn3 It is not manifestly apparent that these federal constitutional and statutory provisions do incorporate those requirements. If that is so, the issue is purely one of state law which this court would not have jurisdiction to adjudicate. Assuming, however, that those requirements are mandated as a matter of federal constitutional statutory law, Petitioner’s Petition is without merit.

In State v. Stephenson, 89 Wn.App. 794, 808, 950 P.2d 38 (1998), review denied, 136 Wn.2d 1018, 966 P.2d 1277 (1998), the Washington Court of Appeals dealt with RCW 2.08.080 regarding the oath of office for superior court judges. That provision is very similar to RCW 2.04.080 regarding the oath of office for supreme court justices.*fn4 The court of appeals found the requirement is that judges take the oath of office “before entering upon the duties of [the] office,” citing Wash. Const. art. IV and RCW 2.08.080. The same is true with regard to state supreme court justices. It is of no consequence if, as Petitioner alleges, the justices in question did not take their oaths of office before “their terms began.” Petitioner does not allege that any of these justices discharged their duties in considering and denying Petitioner’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis prior to taking their oaths of office. Moreover, this court is not obliged to accept as true conclusory allegations by the Petitioner that these justices entered upon any of their duties as judicial officers prior to taking their oaths.

In Stephenson, the court of appeals found that under RCW 2.08.080, “the filing of the oath with the Secretary of State is not a condition precedent to assuming the duties of office.” Id. This is because the clause, “which oath shall be filed,” does not relate to the antecedent clause “before entering upon the duties of his office,” nor does it relate to the list of judicial requirements connected by “ands” (“take and subscribe an oath”). Id. The same is true with regard to RCW 2.04.080 which contains a similar sentence structure. See footnotes 3 and 4 supra. The clause in RCW 2.04.080- “the oath or affirmation so certified shall be filed in the office of the secretary of state” – does not relate to the antecedent clause “before entering upon the duties of their office,” nor does it relate to the list of judicial requirements connected by “ands” (“take and subscribe the following oath and affirmation”).

The Washington state supreme court justices took their oaths “before entering upon the duties of their office.” It is inconsequential if the filing of their oaths did not occur until after they had assumed those duties. Petitioner’s Petition, as a matter of law, fails to plead a violation of RCW 2.04.080. Accordingly, the Petition is DISMISSED with prejudice and will not be served upon the Respondents.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

The District Court Executive is directed to enter judgment accordingly and forward copies of the judgment and this order to the Petitioner. This file shall be closed.

DATED this 3rd day of February, 2010.