Issue: SHOULD A COMMISSIONER HAVE DISMISSED A SUMMARY JUDGMENT MOTION UPON REALIZING THAT SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION WAS LACKING UNDER WASHINGTON LAW?
|Area of Law:||Constitutional Law, Litigation & Procedure|
|Keywords:||Dismissal; Subject matter jurisdiction; Commissioner case|
|Cited Cases:||589 N.Y.S.2d 230; 521 P.2d 1181|
If a Commissioner case acknowledged on the record that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s summary judgment motion, and for that reason it transferred the case to the Superior Court, which did have jurisdiction, Washington law clearly does not permit this type of transfer between courts. Washington case law recognizes the well-known and universally respected rule that a court lacking jurisdiction over any matter may do “nothing other than enter an order of dismissal.” Deschenes v. King County, 83 Wash. 2d 714, 521 P.2d 1181, 1182 (Ct. App. 1974) (citing 21 C.J.S. Courts § 118 (1940)); see also Dougherty v. Dep’t of Labor & Indus., 48 P.3d 390, 395 (Wash. Ct. App. 2002).
Moreover, such an improper transfer cannot be salvaged by characterizing it as a “change of venue.” While Washington appears to have no direct case law on point, courts in other jurisdictions have held that a change of venue necessarily “presumes jurisdiction.” Spinnell v. Doris L. Sassower, P.C., 589 N.Y.S.2d 230, 236 (N.Y.C. Civ. Ct. 1992). In other words, a court must have both subject matter and personal jurisdiction to change venue from one county branch to another within the same court. Id. By extension, a court lacking subject matter jurisdiction may not confer jurisdiction upon a different court by transferring the case “under the guise of a change in venue.” Id. This principle follows logically from the basic rule described above—that a court lacking jurisdiction must […]