State v. Clark
88 Wn.2d 533, 563 P.2d 1253 (1977)

  • M’Lissa was arrested for drug possession. After the arrest, but prior to the trial, she married Jay.
  • M’Lissa was convicted for drug possession and sentenced to 25 days in jail. She filed an appeal. She asked for a public defender.
    • In order to get a public defender, M’Lissa needed to make a showing that she was indigent.
  • The Trial Judge did not appoint a public defender. M’Lissa appealed.
    • The Trial Judge found that while M’Lissa had no assets, and as a couple the two hadn’t amassed any marital community assets, her husband Jay had plenty of money from before they were married.
      • There was no record as to whether Jay was willing to pay for M’Lissa’s lawyer, but he did know that she had legal trouble when he married her.
  • The Washington Supreme Court found that Jay was responsible for his wife’s appeal.
    • The Washington Supreme Court found that under Washington State law, a spouse is not required to pay debts their spouse acquired prior to the marriage (aka antenuptial).
      • However, the Court found that M’Lissa’s debt from her appeal was acquired after marriage (aka postnuptial). There is a distinction between the arrest, the trial, and the appeal. They are separate actions.
    • Under Washington State law, as well as the common-law, spouses are responsible for paying for the necessaries of their spouse.
      • In this case, the Court found that a legal appeal counts as a necessary, at least when a spouse’s liberty is at stake.
  • Traditionally under the common-law, necessaries have been found to include things such as food, clothing, medicine, legal services, and housing. But there was never an exact definition.