What is the difference between a certified document and a certified instrument?

RCW 3.62.060 allows district courts to charge one fee for certifying a document and another fee for certifying an instrument.

Since the statute does not clearly distinguish the two terms, a reasonable interpretation would be to classify an instrument as: "a written legal document such as a contract, lease, deed, will or, bond."  The clerk's office would charge $5 for the first page and $1 for each additional page of these types of legal documents.

A reasonable interpretation of a document is: "any paper with writing on it."  The clerk's office could charge $5 for certified copies of documents that do not rise to the level of an instrument, with no additional charge per page.

Receipts for certifying an instrument or a document will both be done using the CER Certifying Documents Cost Fee Code.

Analysis details:

RCW 3.62.060 provides . . .
(f) For certifying any document on file or of record in the clerk's office a fee of five dollars.

(g) At the option of the district court:
(i) For preparing a certified copy of an instrument on file or of record in the clerk's office, for the first page or portion of the first page, a fee of five dollars, and for each additional page or portion of a page, a fee of one dollar;

One of the differences between the two subsections is that subsection (f) uses the term "document" and subsection (g)(i) uses the term "instrument."  RCW 3.62.060 does not define the difference between an "instrument" and a "document."  Because the fee for copying an "instrument" under subsection (g)(i) has only been effective since July 2009, there is little or no case law interpreting the difference in these terms for purposes of this statute.  

In order to assist the courts with determining which fee to impose, the AOC Legal Department has provided the following definitions:

Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) provides the following definitions of these two terms:
INSTRUMENT - A written legal document that defines rights, duties, entitlements, or liabilities, such as a contract, will, promissory note, or share certificate.
DOCUMENT - Something tangible on which words, symbols, or marks are recorded. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a). 2. (pl.) The deeds, agreements, title papers, letters, receipts, and other written instruments used to prove a fact. 

An "instrument" seems to embrace contracts, deeds, statutes, wills, Orders in Council, orders, warrants, schemes, letters patent, rules, regulations, by-laws, whether in writing or in print, or partly in both; in fact, any written or printed document that may have to be interpreted by the Courts.  While the definition of "document" is broader than the definition of an "instrument," in fact it is broad enough to include "instruments" in its definition.  

RN id: 2195