Scales Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney
128 North 2nd Street, Room 329
Yakima, Washington 98901

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Frequently Asked Questions

Questions by the Public

I have questions about a small claims case. Who can help me?

Our office cannot help you. Please contact the Yakima County District Court Clerk’s Office at 574-1800 or 1-800-572-7354.

I need child support. Can you help me?

Our Support Division may be able to help.

I want a divorce. [Or, I want to sue someone. Or, I want to adopt a child.] Can the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office help me?

No, we cannot provide legal advice or take legal action in such matters. You should consult with your own lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you can call CLEAR (Coordinated Legal Education, Advice & Referral) at 1-888-201-1014 for a referral to a local attorney.

Does the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office provide copies of police reports?

Probably not. Police reports generally are not released to persons other than the defendant’s attorney while a case is pending. After a case is finished, any member of the public may obtain copies of some reports by filing a Public Disclosure request with the involved law enforcement agency.

Can I talk to Mr. Hagarty? I think he's the person who is working on my case.

Mr. Hagarty is the elected Prosecuting Attorney of Yakima County, and his name appears on many of our official documents. Although he does handle some matters personally, usually one of the Deputy Prosecuting Attorneys in the office handles criminal and civil cases. When you call, give your name or the name of the defendant to our receptionist, and we will attempt to connect you with the right person.

Where do I report for Jury Duty?

People summoned for jury duty in Yakima County should report as directed to the Yakima County Superior Court Clerk’s office, located in Room 323 on the third floor of the Yakima County Courthouse.

Where can I find the Yakima County Code? How can I get a copy of the Code? How can I find a of the Code?

Yakima County's printed copy of the Yakima County Code is kept in the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney's Office Corporate Counsel Division, Room 211, County Courthouse. The public may use the Code books in our office, and will copy your selected portions of the code at the rate of $.10 per page. We can copy the entire code for you; it is about 700 pages long. Supplements are also $.10 per page. We can put you on the supplement list if you request. If you have a copy of the Code and do not subscribe to supplements, your copy of the Code will be outdated and inaccurate after the next supplement is published.

The Yakima Valley Regional Library has a printed copy of the County Code. The Yakima County Law Library also has one, and is open to the public between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 noon and is staffed during that time by a volunteer who can help you find the County Code. You may also view the Yakima County Code on the Internet at Click on Services, then Resources, then click on Yakima County Code.

Can you give me legal advice? My tax dollars pay the attorneys' salaries; therefore, they are my public servants and should give me the legal advice I have paid for.

Tax dollars pay the salaries of the attorneys in the Yakima County Prosecutor's Office. Most of the attorneys handle only criminal cases. A few of our prosecutors handle child support enforcement cases. Our Corporate Counsel Division attorneys provide legal counsel to Yakima County's elected and appointed officials so they perform the County's business legally and efficiently.

The tax base of Yakima County could not possibly provide free legal services for all residents of Yakima County, nor would the legal community tolerate such unfair competition. The attorneys who work in this government office specialize in legal service to public officials and governments, and may not have current knowledge or expertise necessary to represent individuals in other legal fields. If you need legal advice about a problem that does not involve the county government, you should contact a private attorney. We can not make attorney referrals or recommendations.

My legal problem involves the county government because my neighbor is violating the County Code. What should I do?

Find the section of the Yakima County Code that is being violated (see above for help in finding the Code). Peacefully contact the person causing the problem, discuss the violation, and provide a copy of the applicable Code section. Sometimes that will solve the problem. If not, we suggest that you write a letter to the offending individual describing the offending behavior, citing the County Code section. Set a deadline by which you want the behavior changed or ceased or you will seek legal assistance.

You may report building code violations to the Permit Services division of Yakima County Public Works Department at (509) 574-2360 Fax: (509) 574-2361. The code inspector's duty is to inspect violations, impose fines and issue citations. Yakima County has only one code inspector, so he may not be able to respond quickly. Sometimes a citation and fine will cause the offending behavior to stop or change, but sometimes it causes the behavior to escalate or may cause the offender to retaliate against you. You may contact a private attorney at any time to represent you in a civil lawsuit for damages or injunctive relief against the code violator, or to explain what your other options are. This office cannot provide such legal advice.

How can I purchase property owned by Yakima County?

We need the parcel number to check the status of County ownership and use. Many parcels owned by Yakima County are designated for some future use such as gravel storage, road construction, landfill expansion and so forth. If Yakima County wishes to sell the parcel, it may be offered for sale at a public auction as required by law for certain types of land. Other parcels may be sold by private negotiation. Our Corporate Counsel Division works with Yakima County Public Works and the Yakima County Treasurer to accomplish sales of real property. There may be public hearings involved. You may call our office to discuss your particular interests. The Yakima County Treasurer sells land acquired by foreclosure at a public auction at least once annually, usually (but not always) in mid-December. Call the County Treasurer for details about the next foreclosure sale The properties that will be sold at public auction will be described in abbreviated terms in the newspaper a few weeks before the sale. You must watch the newspaper for public notices. We do not have the staff available to maintain lists of people who wish to be called if a certain parcel becomes available.

Where can I get free or low cost legal advice?

Columbia Legal Services, 575-5593, and the YWCA's Volunteer Attorney Services, 248-7796, may be of assistance. They have strict guidelines about what types of legal problems they can help with and income levels of the individuals they may serve. Yakima County also offers a Family Court Facilitator, 574-2695, who provides forms and procedural information for those who choose to represent themselves in family court (divorces, child custody, parenting plans, etc.) The Family Court Facilitator is not an attorney and may not provide legal advice.

I reported an incident to the County Sheriff's Office and they told me it was a civil problem that your office will take care of. Your office staff told me the Corporate Counsel Division will not get involved in my civil complaint against another person. Where do I go now and why am I getting the run-around?

The desk clerks in the Yakima County Sheriff's Office understand that the sheriffs will investigate criminal activity occurring in their jurisdiction. If the activity you complain of is not criminal in nature, the sheriff will not investigate it, and the Sheriff's Office clerks can not advise you about non-criminal procedures. The Sheriff's Civil Department conducts the business of the sheriff's office that is not related to criminal investigation such as service of legal papers, issuance of gun permits, etc., but there are no attorneys in their office.

If you have a non-criminal legal question or conflict that needs resolving, ask yourself: Is the county government involved, or Did the county government cause my damage? If the county government is not involved, the Corporate Counsel Division of the Prosecuting Attorney's Office will not get involved either, and you may wish to consult with a private attorney.

The County is responsible for damage or injury to me, my family, or my property. How do I file a claim?

If the county government or a county employee did cause damage to you or your property, you may file a claim against the County by obtaining a claim form from the County Commissioners. Instructions for filing the claim are on the form and are regulated by state statute. Filing a claim does not guarantee payment. We investigate each claim fully and without regard to other claims filed.

I filed a claim against the County two months ago but have not received my check yet. When will it arrive?

Filing a claim against Yakima County does not guarantee payment. Filing a claim is similar to filing a lawsuit: the county government will first determine whether the county government is legally liable for the claimed damages. The county government is the fiduciary steward of the taxpayers' dollars and, as such, it does not just pay claims upon demand. It has a duty to fully and independently investigate each and every claim.

Several factors affect how quickly a claim can be investigated, such as complexity of the issues, whether or not experts (such as appraisers or architects) must be retained, whether or not the claimant provides supporting documents (such as photographs and witness statements), and the current work load of the one attorney and paralegal assigned to process claims against the County. After the investigation is completed, the legal staff recommend to the County Commissioners that the claim should either be paid or denied. The Commissioners hear the recommendations of their legal counsel every week at a public meeting.

If the Commissioners decide to pay a claim based upon their attorneys' recommendations, the staff in the Corporate Counsel Division will request a check from the Auditor's Office. The Auditor's Office writes checks three times per month. State laws allow the county 60 days in which to resolve a claim during which time no legal action can be filed. We try very hard to complete our work on claims during that time frame, but sometimes we just need more time.

I filed a claim against Yakima County and it was denied. No one interviewed me or my witnesses before denying the claim so I do not believe the investigation was done properly. How do I get the denial of the claim overturned?

The attorneys determine the best way to conduct each investigation, and it may not involve the claimant. Sometimes there are other sources for information besides the claimant and his or her witnesses: accident reports, independent witnesses, project supervisors or contractors' logs, etc. Sometimes liability is so clear that we immediately begin settlement negotiations. At other times, it is equally clear that Yakima County could not be legally liable for the damages and the claim will be denied without claimant contact. For example, we may be able to quickly establish that the state government is responsible, not Yakima County, without contacting the claimant.

There is no appeal process for claims denied. If your claim is denied, you will receive an explanatory letter and a copy of the resolution denying your claim. If you believe your claim was wrongfully denied, you may discuss your claim with us if you are not represented by an attorney, or you may proceed with legal action.

Will you enforce a parenting plan that my ex-husband is violating since it was entered in your County Superior Court?

Enforcement of court orders is a private matter between you and the other person and must be handled by a private attorney. Government attorneys do not settle custodial disputes or enforce court orders between individuals. If a private attorney helped you obtain the order, a private attorney (not a government attorney) must help you enforce the order.

What if I have a question which is not answered here?

Call or visit our office. However, the Yakima County Prosecuting Attorney's Office is not a free legal clinic or a clearinghouse of legal information. We cannot give legal advice on private legal issues.

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Updated November 19, 2010