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Affidavit of Prejudice Deprives Washington Judge of Jurisdiction; Decisions Are Void

In an unpublished April 9, 2013 Opinion, the Washington state Court of Appeals vacated a trial court's letter rulings, concluding that a valid affidavit of prejudice deprived the court of jurisdiction.

On October 21, 2008, Washington prisoner Matthew G. Silva brought a state court action against the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) and Attorney General.

On December 11, 2008, an Assistant Attorney General wrote to Superior Court Judge David Edwards, noting "that Silva had filed approximately 40 cases against" DOC and its staff, and requesting that the "Court restrict Silva from filing any further legal actions without permission of the court." Silva then sent Judge Edwards a December 22, 2008 response and declaration of prejudice, against Judge Edwards.

Seven days later, Judge Edwards issued a letter ruling denying Silva leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directing the court clerk to "not accept for filing any litigation by Matthew G. Silva without prior consent of the court."

Silva moved to vacate Judge Edward's letter ruling on April 7, 2010. Rather than rule on that motion, however, Judge Edwards issued a May 25, 2010 letter ruling, informing Silva that his motion would not be accepted for filing. Silva appealed.

The Washington state Court of Appeals noted that under RCW 4.12.050, a judge against whom a valid affidavit of prejudice has been filed loses jurisdiction over the case and his decisions are void.

"Silva demonstrated that Judge Edwards lacked jurisdiction to enter the letter rulings after Silva submitted an affidavit of prejudice," the Court concluded. As such, it vacated "those letter rulings and remand(ed) Silva's motion to proceed in forma pauperis to be considered by another judge." See: Silva v. Washington State Department of Corrections, No. 42651-0-II (Wa Ct of App. 4/9/13).


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Related legal case

Silva v. Washington State Department of Corrections