WI Supreme Court Rules on Restraining Order Against UW System Protester

Jul 16, 2014

The state’s highest court says it was appropriate for a Madison judge to approve a UW Board of Regents request for a restraining order.

The order targets Jeff Decker, a frequent protester at UW System meetings.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court justices ruled that Decker’s conduct at the meetings lacked a legitimate purpose and constituted harassment.

The Board of Regents sought the restraining order, saying Decker was repeatedly disruptive, and acted in a threatening manner. In 2011, a circuit court judge said there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Decker potentially could pose a threat to public safety. The judge issued an injunction barring Decker from all University of Wisconsin properties.

Decker argued he had a legitimate purpose to attend the meetings, because his mission was to protest the UW System’s use of student fees. He also said the harassment injunction was overbroad and vague, because it applied to all UW properties, employees and, arguably, students.

While Wednesday’s ruling upholds the issuance of a restraining order, the justices agreed with Decker that the order was too broad. The Supreme Court sent the issue back to the circuit court to “refine and clarify” the terms of the injunction.

The ACLU of Wisconsin issued a response to the court decision reading, in part: “Restraining orders that purport to silence ‘harassing’ speech always raise first amendment concerns, but especially when the ‘person’ claiming harassment is the government itself.”