State Supreme Court clarifies opinion that baffled lawyers

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court has clarified a ruling that baffled lawyers this week.

The court issued a 4-4 ruling Thursday in the case of a Shoreline man who had been convicted of obstructing police. Justice Barbara Madsen did not participate in the case.

Normally in such a split ruling, the lower court’s decision would stand, but Justice Steven González’s opinion was designated the lead opinion, and it ordered the conviction vacated and sent the case back to the trial court. Lawyers and law professors said they didn’t understand how a split opinion could result in a lower court’s ruling being overturned.

The court on Friday amended the order to clarify that González’s opinion did not garner enough votes to vacate the conviction, and that the lower court’s ruling stands.