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What's taking Wisconsin Supreme Court so long to rule on Safer at Home lawsuit?

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- It's been five days since the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard virtual oral arguments in the GOP lawsuit challenging the state's "Safer at Home" order, and the court has yet to issue a ruling.

Mordecai Lee, UW-Milwaukee professor emeritus, said he expected the justices to issue a decision quickly. 

"I'm really surprised. Friday afternoon, I was sort of looking at the clock thinking, 'Oh, for sure they'll do it before the weekend,'" Lee said.

In April, the state's highest court ruled within hours that Gov. Tony Evers lacked the authority to postpone the April 7 election. Lee cited that ruling as a reason he believed the court would act quickly in this lawsuit.

"I guess we have to interpret this as being meaningful, as being unpredictable because it's the opposite of what they did when they told the governor he could not cancel the election," Lee said.

The court, which has a 5-2 conservative majority, must decide whether Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm had the authority to extend the "Safer at Home" order.

Justices heard oral arguments Tuesday in the lawsuit filed by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Conservative justices raised doubts about the legality of the order.

"Isn't it the very definition of tyranny for one person to order people to be imprisoned for going to work among other ordinarily lawful activities?" asked Justice Rebecca Bradley.

DHS is represented by the Wisconsin Department of Justice in the case.

"People will die if this order is enjoined with nothing to replace it. That is exactly what will happen," said Assistant Attorney General Colin Roth during oral arguments.

Lee has several theories about what's taking the court so long. He said he believes either the justices could be writing an extremely long opinion that will be thorough and definitive, or the court is undecided.

"It could be that some of the people we associate as de facto conservative Republicans are maybe not jumping in the same direction as all of the other conservatives. It's possible that the court is deadlocked," Lee said.

To uphold the "Safer at Home" order, two conservative justices would need to side with the two liberals.

The Legislature asked the court to issue an injunction to block the order and to grant a 6-day stay after their ruling to give DHS time to come up with a solution.

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