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Judge rules Erpenbach had the right to withhold names of Act 10 related emails


GRANT COUNTY, WI (WTAQ) - A circuit judge has ruled that state Senator Jon Erpenbach had the right to withhold the names of over 2,600 people who wrote him during the 2011 protests over the state’s union bargaining limits.

Grant County Circuit Judge Robert Van de Hey said the Middleton Democrat was allowed to consider whether the writers would face retaliation if their names were made public.

The conservative MacIver Institute wanted to know if the messages were written by public employees from government computers during work hours.

Judge Van de Hey examined 2,000 e-mails to Erpenbach from public computers – and most expressed support for the senator’s opposition to the union law.

The judge said case law has allowed occasional uses of public computers for personal items. He said none of the e-mails he examined would warrant prosecution under the law against the improper use of public resources.

MacIver Institute attorney Richard Esenberg said he disagreed with the court ruling – and while his group has not decided whether to appeal, he believes it would win.

The e-mails to Erpenbach were written at a time of heavy protests, when he and 13 other Senate Democrats left Wisconsin in a failed effort to stop a vote on the public union bargaining limits.