Presumptions in the Washington Supreme Court

Paul L. Stritmatter, Presumptions in the Washington Supreme Court, 5 Gonz. L. Rev. 198 (1970).


. . . [A] look at the whole field of presumptions-an area we enter now albeit with reluctance. We hesitate to go into the legal area where presumptions abound, for it is a place fraught with danger-in some areas an almost impenetrable jungle, in others a mist laden morass-where more than one academician has been known to lose his way and, once returned, is never quite the same again.

For presumptions–natural in origin though they may be-having their roots in and drawing their sustenance from the common experiences of mankind, have suffered the artificial but inexorable labeling and classifying process of the law. There are conclusive presumptions and rebuttable presumptions and presumptions of law and also of fact, and mixed presumptions of either. And then there are dry presumptions (Aren’t they all?) but no wet ones, and both natural and artificial presumptions; and then there are pseudo presumptions and violent presumptions, and, of course, there are presumptions which are not really presumptions at all, but mere inferences. Then there are presumptions which are real presumptions, and others which are held to be evidence. [Citations omitted.]

Mr. Justice Hale accurately portrayed with this eloquent prose the dilemma that any writer faces when he seeks to delve into the world of presumptions, and the fact that the scope of this paper encompasses only presumptions as viewed by the Washington Supreme Court does little to lift that burden. The Washington court (like most courts) has thrown the label of “presumption” over many facets of the law and then has written countless opinions in an attempt to clarify this broad area. The intent of this author is to present a brief overview of the basic theories of the leading   scholars in the field and then show how four different “presumptions” are treated by the Washington court. These presumptions have been picked arbitrarily and are not meant to be representative of any general pattern in the area.

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