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Posted on Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Judge slams anti-gay former state attorney in court for suit filed by former U-M student

By Staff

A federal judge knocked former assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell today for trying to find a shortcut way of wrapping up a lawsuit against him, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“You’re basically at the beginning of the lawsuit trying to get to the end,” U.S. District judge Arthur Tarnow said. “You’re wasting a lot of energy.”

Shirvell, who is representing himself, was in federal court trying get Tarnow to throw out the majority of a lawsuit filed against him by Christopher Armstrong, the former student body president of the University of Michigan.

Thumbnail image for Andrew-Shirvell-2.jpg

Andrew Shirvell

In his lawsuit, Armstrong claims Shirvell inflicted intentional emotional harm through his actions during Armstrong’s senior year, when Shirvell wrote a blog highly critical of Armstrong’s homosexual lifestyle, including accusing him of getting minors to drink alcohol and trying recruit others to become homosexuals, the newspaper reported.

Shirvell was fired for using state resources for his campaign against Armstrong and for lying to investigators during his disciplinary hearing, Attorney General Mike Cox said last November.

Shirvell countersued Armstrong, alleging that he's the victim and that the former U-M student is responsible for his professional troubles, the newspaper reported.

In court today, Shirvell argued that his comments about Armstrong were not over the line of acceptable criticism.

Read the full report.


Billy Buchanan

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 3:14 p.m.

Another case of our judical system run amok. The Government does away with the don't ask, don't tell policy. Why? This gives our chaplains' a moral dilemma to serve man or God.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

Shirvell seems to be an excellent example of a person whose obsession has derailed a career and a life. He is also an excellent example of a person who appears incapable of of sharing his world with any one other than those who are exactly like him. His disregard for the law, his willingness to bully another human being from his position of power for personal reasons and his gigantic personal regard for himself is reflective of an individual who is sadly lacking the necessary attributes for public service.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 12:03 p.m.

In all these stories on Shirvell, the staff allows comments accusing him of being gay. That is an obviously unsubstantiated accusation. Why does the staff allow those comments?


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

Search terms: "gay, stalking". Google has solved this one for me


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

Shirvell got fired from his last regular employment. A judgment of this kind is probably dischargeable in bankruptcy--although there is an argument on that. The suit is probably symbolic since it's unlikely to ever be collected on.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 12:40 a.m.

You are largely correct. Intentional torts are not typically subject to Chapter 7 bankuptcy discharge initially, but lega maneuvering in bankruptcy means as a practical matter, Armstrong will likely collect little if anything if he obtains a judgment.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 11:38 p.m.

I believe the American Civil Liberties Union should get involved in this case to render assistance to Shirvell. They provided amicus curia briefs in the Westboro Baptist Church case which amounted to a big victory for the exercise of Free Speech Clause rights under the First Amendment. They also provided legal counsel to the defendants in the "peace bond" case in Dearborn where the minister from Florida had alleged violation of his First Amendment rights. The Shirvell case could establish important First Amendment federal precedent.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 11:21 p.m.

I believe much of what Shirvell is accused of is legally protected conduct. I also believe that Armstrong's conduct has not been neither exemplary nor ideal. The Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office made findings in a memorandum as to why they declined to file criminal stalking charges against Shirvell. One factor was that Armstrong, by virtue of his office as MSA president, was a public figure; another was that when a police detective offered to convey to Shirvell that Armstrong's public "shadowing" from Shirvell was unwanted, Armstrong told the detective that he did not want the detective to do so. The personal protection order proceeding in circuit court brought by Armstrong against Shirvell was abruptly voluntarily dismissed by Armstrong without comment. Why? The Department of Attorney General in firing Shirvell focused upon his improper use of government facilities while at work and the fact he allegedly lied about it when questioned; the findings of the Department referred to conduct "bordering" on stalking against Armstrong but stopped short of making a specific finding that Shivell "stalked" Armstrong. Armstrong's attorney filed an Attorney Grievance Commission complaint against Shirvell long ago seeking law license revocation - but no adverse action has been announced to date. Philip Thomas, the former grievance administrator of that disciplinary body, is representing Shirvell and has indicated that the Westboro Baptist Church opinion by the United States Supreme Court may exonerate Shirvell. While Shirvell clearly has been involved in questionable and ill-advised conduct, there has not been one court, administrative law body, or prosecutorial authority that has made any finding of illicit "stalking" of Armstrong by Shirvell. I believe Mr. Armstrong and the LGBT community has tried to make a publicity bonanza from this story by portraying Armstrong as some type of collegiate martyr - which he is not. Mr. Armstrong - yo

Basic Bob

Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 2:51 a.m.

"I would take 40k Chris Armstrong's at the UM any day" Mr. Armstrong might be a great guy, but truthfully most U-M students are nothing at all like him.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

You seem to be confusing CRIMINAL court with CIVIL action that Mr Armstrong has taken. To say , " I also believe that Armstrong's conduct has not been neither exemplary nor ideal." is RIDICULOUS. Chris Armstrong never asked to have an assistant AG from the state go on a personal vendetta against him. Many of the things you cite are actually Armstrong trying to get through his senior year of college. Obviously Shirvell has nothing better to do with his time, while Armstrong was studying for exams, interviewing for jobs, serving as president of MSA. NOTHING Chris Armstrong did was invited. HE did not make himself a martyr. Andrew Shirvell did that. Chris Armstrong is a good kid trying to make a difference in the world. I would take 40k Chris Armstrong's at the UM any day.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 12:45 a.m.

His conduct is embarrassing. And I think Judge Tarnow made the right call in allowing the matter to proceed to trial. I predict both plaintiff and defendant getting some wins and losses before Tarnow by the time the case is over. Both parties are best advised to settle out of court and get on with their lives.

rusty shackelford

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 11:57 p.m.

C'mon, just because his conduct wasn't criminal doesn't mean there isn't the case for a tort. Not saying Armstrong is definitely right, but his case isn't baseless. I also would be surprised is Shirvell doesn't receive some kind of professional reprimand. Again, if he wasn't criminal, he was surely an embarrassment to the profession.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 11:44 p.m.

I got cut off (too long of a post): Mr. Armstrong - you are no James Meredith.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:56 p.m.

I still think Paul Rubens should play the role of Shirvell on the Lifetime made for TV movie of this saga. The Similarities are uncanny.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

The recent Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court gave broad First Amendment rights to those who express political speech even where it ran afoul of the common law action for infliction of emotional distress. The WBC opinion indicated, for example, that discussion of public interest issues such as gays in the military would receive Free Speech Clause protectons due to such public interest status even where it engendered emotional distress among its recipients. Judge Arthur Tarnow is one of the most liberal members of the federal bench in Detroit, having been a criminal defense attorney with the State Appellate Defender Office the majority of his career before being appointed by President Clinton as a U.S. District Judge. It may be very hard for Armstrong to collect anything against Shirvell, even if he gets a big jury jury verdict.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 12:32 p.m.

I believe there are enough differences in this case that a jury trail may be difficult for Mr Shirvell to fully escape some sort of penalty. Had Mr Shirvell only exercised his free speech rights there would be no case at all. I am not sure how the judgement around the Westboro group is applicable here? However I am not an attorney and personally don't have any experience in dealing with appellate court issues. Having said that, Mr Shirvell's attorney does seem to be representing a hate mongering bigot and that is quite similar to the make-up of the Westboro Church congregation and the case you cited


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.

Go Chris Go! Hopefully we're at a point where a jury can distinguish "acceptable criticism" from bullying, gay bashing, and hate speech.

Randy Savage

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

Mr. Shirvell needs to snap in to a Slim Jim.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

Which one is the gay guy again?

Chip Reed

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

If Mr. Shirvell could get to be a judge, he wouldn't have to put up with this sort of thing...


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

He who chooses to serve as his own counsel has a fool for a client.


Thu, Oct 13, 2011 : 12:07 p.m.

That sounds like a full employment for lawyers comment. He is a lawyer and given the choice between an overworked public defender and himself, he probably made the right decision.


Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

He was offered and turned down a public defender.

Michigan Reader

Wed, Oct 12, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

He might not be able to afford an attorney...he has to defend or else lose by default.