The 33-year-old son of a former top state legislator won his appeal against a restraining order from the University of Wisconsin System on Thursday.
The Fourth District Court of Appeals found Jeff Decker, a former UW-Stevens Point student, did not harass UW System officials at meetings because he was “legitimate[ly]” protesting.
He has been protesting for some years about what he says is the UW System illegally managing students’ segregated fees.
Decker said he was pleased with the ruling.
“This is a free country where a citizen can attend a meeting,” Decker said.
The UW System alleged that Decker had harassed officials at meetings, including a Board of Regents meeting that he recorded and allegedly resisted officers who tried to remove him.
The system also claimed Decker trespassed on UW System property after he had been suspended from UW-Stevens Point. His suspension stemmed from an incident in which he allegedly stabbed the university’s Chancellor’s documents with a pen.
In October 2011, a circuit court granted a four-year restraining order against Decker because the court said it had “reasonable grounds to believe” Decker harassed, sought to harass or intimidated the regents.
The restraining order demanded Decker to stop harassing the regents, from being at any location that are “temporarily occupied” by the regents and from making any contact with the regents. It also forced Decker to give the county sheriff’s office his five firearms and restricted him from owning any more during the four years.
The appeals court, however, found Decker was within the law in protesting.
“Because the legitimate protest of government policies is protected by law, we conclude that the record does not support the circuit court’s determination that Decker’s actions, which were taken in protest to UW-SP policies and actions, lacked a legitimate purpose,” the court’s ruling said. “Accordingly, we reverse the harassment injunction.”
Requests for comment from the Board of Regents and the Department of Justice had not been returned as of the first publishing of this article.
Update: The UW System had no comment regarding this story. DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck said in an email to The Badger Herald that the DOJ is still reviewing the ruling to see if they will challenge it.