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Posted on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

Former U-M student body president files lawsuit against former state assistant attorney general

By Kyle Feldscher


Chris Armstrong takes notes during a University of Michigan Student Assembly meeting last fall.

Note: This story has been updated to note Chris Armstrong is the former president of the University of Michigan student body. His term expired earlier this week.

Former University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $25,000 in damages from former Assistant State Attorney General Andrew Shirvell.

Armstrong’s attorney Deborah Gordon said in a complaint filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court on Friday that Armstrong is alleging Shirvell stalked him and caused emotional distress in 2010 with posts on Shirvell’s blog and on Facebook.

Armstrong was the first openly gay student body president at U-M and has been accused by Shirvell of pushing a “radical homosexual agenda.”


Andrew Shirvell is shown in this file photo at a Michigan Student Assembly meeting.

Marissa McClain | The Michigan Daily

In the complaint, Gordon writes Shirvell developed a “bizarre personal obsession” with Armstrong despite never meeting him and said Shirvell has a history of “employing intimidation, threats and abusive language against others on whom he has become focused.”

The complaint includes allegations of defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, making statements that put Armstrong in a false light, abuse of process and stalking.

Among claims made in the lawsuit is that Shirvell falsely called Armstrong an "out-right Christian bigot," that he "cultivates and encourages violence against others," that he "ascribes to the teachings of the Ku Klux Klan," and that he held a "gay rush party" to "liquor up underage freshman" and recruit them "to the homosexual lifestyle."

Read the complaint.

Shirvell kept a blog accusing Armstrong of pushing a "radical homosexual agenda" and appeared at several Michigan Student Assembly meetings to protest Armstrong, holding signs — including ones with a rainbow with a swatiska drawn over it. Shirvell was banned by university officials from stepping foot on campus.

Armstrong sought a person protection order against Shirvell in September, which he later dropped before asking the state bar association to disbar Shirvell. Washtenaw County prosecutors also denied a request for stalking charges to be brought against Shirvell.

Philip Thomas, an attorney representing Shirvell in the grievance case with the bar association but not in the lawsuit filed on Friday, said a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court gives him reason to believe all lawsuits and grievances filed against Shirvell will be dropped.

Thomas said the court ruled in Snyder v. Phelps that the Westboro Baptist Church had the right to picket at the funerals of United States soldiers, despite the offensive signs and chants the group used. Thomas said that even though Shirvell's words toward Armstrong may have been offensive, they are protected by freedom of speech.

"I have every confidence in the world that when all of these allegations are dealt with and addressed … I'm confident he's going to be vindicated and the case will be dismissed," Thomas said.

Kyle Feldscher covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:39 a.m.

Having an unstable bully in the Assistant Attorney General position was a danger to us all. I'm glad to see this lawsuit. Bullying and those who enable it (Mike Cox by not monitoring his subordinate, for instance) needs to have the spotlight shined as brightly as possible. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Actions like this help us stay away from "absolute power" where no one is challenging people who misuse power given to them as a public trust.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

Letter to Andrew Shirvell, dated sometime in the near future: Dear Mr. Shirvell, Thank you very much for providing an excellent example on how to be disbarred from the State Bar Association. Signed, Law Students, Lawyers, and Law Professors everywhere.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

Shirvell certainly has his right to free speech just like the rest of us, but as said earlier this has more to do with possible stalking and abuse of process. It could become an interesting test case.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:28 a.m.

Agreed. The ACLU should jump into it. Given the broad scope of allegations and probable appeals it could shape the First Amendment jurisprudence in this state for years to come. This is especially so since they dove in head first into the U-M trespass notice controversy ignited by Shirvell.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

The Michigan Daily article quotes attorney Philip Thomas as saying he will not represent Shirvell in the circuit court case and is unsure whether he can afford an attorney to defend him. I wonder if the ACLU may represent Shirvell in the civil action? I suppose he can represent himself.

just an observer

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:41 p.m.

Where's Mike Cox in all of this? Mike didn't know that Ave Maria didn't recommend Shirvell's admission to the State Bar? Mike didn't know all of this was happening & instead, made Andrew is campaign manager & one of his major fund-raisers? Shirvell was also a donor to Mike's re-election campaign & his gubernatorial election campaign. Mike reminds me of the bishops when confronted with priests' abusive behavior or Sargent Schultz from Hogan's Heroes: "I know nothing!" I think Mike (gay sex is sinful, but it's ok if I have an extra-marital affair) Cox should be sued, too.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:56 p.m.

A suit against Department of Attorney General personnel may bring in some "deep-pockets", but a suit against the State of Michigan must be filed in the Court of Claims in Lansing and allows no juries.

Marshall Applewhite

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

I don't see this lawsuit going anywhere. Frankly, this is such a weird story that I'd be happy to just see it fade away.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

A mountain out of a molehill. Armstrong is a publicity hound seeking to find his niche as a civil rights icon like James Meredith or Rosa Parks. Dream on Mr. Armstrong.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

My hunch is that much if not most of the claims in the newly-filed case will be dismissed summarily by Judge Morris due to the First Amendment and the Snyder decision. Armstrong can hope to try to have some of his claims survive motions for summary disposition and further hope that Shirvell will pay cash to avoid a trial. What is unclear is whether there is a liability insurance carrier paying for Shirvell's defense. Some liabilty policies have limited coverage for misconduct such as slander or libel. A liability carrier recently shelled over cash when a city councilman in Warren got sued for libel by a planning commissioner.

John of Saline

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

Armstrong's lawyer needs a proofreader; I've seen several errors and I'm less than halfway through.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:30 a.m.

I noticed some too - e.g. Shirvell "hales" (not hails) from Charlotte. Believe me its embarrassing for a high-profile lawyer to file pleadings with numerous misspellings - but it happens all too often.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

Regards Roadman's comments: ="the case was filed in state circuit court due to a perceved (sic) liberal venue as opposed to federal court." The case would have been filed in the appropriate manor, State vs Federal level, as per the particulars of the case, and not as a result of desires of any one person involved, Armstrong, his attorney, or Shirvell etc... ="The real limitation for Armstrong will be lack of collectability (sic) of Shirvell" This of course implies that a pot of gold at the end of the process is in mind at the outset. Not necessarily the case. In order to file a suit, I believe an amount of damages needs to be entered, for procedural reasons, in order to move forward. In my case (see my other post) it was required, and oddly enough there are guidelines for attorneys to follow for reference. I would offer that as opposed to a large pay-out at the end for Mr Armstrong being a primary motivation here, that part of his reasoning in bringing suit against Mr Shirvell is one of making Mr Shirvell responsible for his actions, and making his responsibility a matter of record. Bringing a bully to account as it were. Human behavior is such that a bully will continue to bully if not taken to task. At the extreme in modern history are many examples, Hitler, and Gadhafi to name but two. "An oppressed people are authorized, whenever they can, to rise and break their fetters." Quote by: Henry Clay, (1777-1852) U. S. Senator, Speaker of the House of Representatives Source: Speech, 24 March 1818 (via ) Mr Armstrong stands in a long line of those who become willing to stand strong, with great resolve, and face down bullies and tyrannical behavior, for the better of the community as a whole, and not merely for the Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender community for which he happens to be in the forefront of.

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:34 p.m.

It's not like your case, Jim. Not in the slightest. Even a "protected class," like the courts granted you and presumably Armstrong if this case makes it past the easy dismissal, does not have a fundamental right not to be offended. This seems more like a criminal case. And if it doesn't pass those tests, it will be difficult to assign any damages.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

Wrong, JIm! The United States Code confers jurisdiction on the federal courts to hear cases involving "federal questions". The federal question in the Shirvell case is the applicabilty of the First Amendment as a defense, so Armstrong's counsel had a choice where to file his case - state circuit court or U.S. District Court. I believe she picked the Washtenaw County venue due to the perceived liberality of its veniremen (potential jurors). I agree that Armstrong had to plead in excess of $25,000.00 in damages sustained to invoke the state circuit court's jurisdiction. I believe that publicity rather than cash was a motivating factor here for the parties and their respective counsel. Principle and accountability are noble goals but ultimately lawyers will not take a case without some benefit to their checkbook or public relations advantage. It was Geoff Fieger's pro bono representation of Dr. Kevorkian that made him a celebrity.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

You have just compared Shirvell to Hitler and Gadhafi, which is ironic since one of Armstrong's complaints is that he supposedly "maliciously represented that Plaintiff is a Nazi or ascribes to the teachings of the Nazi party". If that is grounds for Armstrong why would it not be grounds for Shirvell to sue you?


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:39 p.m.

How much emotional distress has been go through? He has U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and the DPS, and Ann Arbor city mayor John Hieftje stand by him. He was interview on CNN news..... I believe that Chris Armstrong has gained great deal to be accused by Andrew Shirvell as"pushing radical homosexual agenda." The real person who suffered defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy (being watched by someone by the driveway) is the poor research associate, she almost died recently, be murdered by ....


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:29 p.m.

With regards to several comments posted, coming from my personal experience of being the plaintiff bringing suit against a former employer (re a gender-based animus, resulting in a negative cause of action towards me, c. 1996) =Tom Joad: "a lawsuit is a suicide of time" Yes some lawsuits historically have been a waist of time, the vast majority are not. All our lives are better in large and small ways as a result of lawsuits and verdicts that prompt change. I am sure Mr Armstrong's attorney has advised him the potential stress and horrors ahead of him in undertaking the lawsuit. In my case I thought it over for 11 months before coming to the conclusion that it was the right thing to do. I had been advised, as I'm sure Mr Armstrong has, that the process will potentially consume three to five years of his life and attention if it moves forward. In my case it went on for five and a half years, and while never loosing at any stage in the process, every decision from beginning -a unanimous jury verdict in my favor, to end -at the Michigan Supreme Court level validating all the lower court decisions, being rendered to the benefit of my claim, it was none the less the most stressful and drawn out event in my life. =tresspass: "This lawsuit seems misguided and its only purpose seems to be to make some kind of political point." Misguided and to make a "political point?" I hardly thinks so. Any reasonable and competent attorney would not proceed with this as the basis of action. Whenever there is disagreement on what is right and what is wrong we seek our court's advice and guidance as relates to established law. I believe Mr Shirvell's behavior was abusive to the point of infringing on the legally protected rights of Mr Armstrong. His actions while employed as Assistant Attorney General make his behaviors all the more disturbing. A lawsuit is a daunting thing to enter into, and for a reason. It is not initiated lightly nor for insignific

Macabre Sunset

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

We knew this was coming. Unfortunately for Armstrong, it is almost impossible to win an "emotional distress" case when you're a public figure. Disclaimer: this post should not be construed as any kind of personal support for Shirvell.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:10 p.m.

Snyder, the dad of a Marine killed in action, was clearly not a public figure and could not get around the First Amendment defense asserted by the Westboro defendants. The bar will be that much higher for Armstrong who is a public figure who interned for a public figure, and who is also openly homosexual.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

How about you are not a public figure? and the defamation leaded your marriage broken, job lost? and you don't want live any more.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

The complainant hurt his own case by never following through previously with his PPO request and the disbarment proceedings. Having had those his case might be stronger now. Still as others have noted this should not be a free speech trial, it's a stalking one for which there are already "settled" laws. For all those wishing to limit free speech, just as a rising tide lifts all boats, so too do restrictions on rights limit all not just those you target.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:28 p.m.

You're absolutely right, Rice. Also he did not want a police detective to impart that Shirvell's conduct was unwanted when the detective volunteered to tell this to Shirvell. Shirvell is a funny bird to be sure but Armstrong's conduct was hard to understand.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

The Michigan Daily also reported that Armstrong's attorney has asked that the case be tried by a move...(<a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:26 p.m.

No surprise - its a liberal venue. The case may be dismissed before it ever gets to a jury.

Tom Joad

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:39 p.m.

a lawsuit is a suicide of time


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:22 p.m.

Or, as Ambrose Bierce quipped: it's where you go in as a pig and come out as a sausage.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

If Chris Armstrong thinks that Andrew Shirvell invaded his privacy, just wait until he goes through discovery on this case. He is claiming defamation and emotional distress, so they can take depostions from him and all of this friends and lovers as to his sexual relationships, they can get his medical records, including psychiatric records. They can subpoena his student records, they can subpoena records of the Angel Society (trying to show they use or used racist ceremonies, particularly regarding native americans). Who among us wants to invite that kind of scrutiny of our personal lives? This lawsuit seems misguided and its only purpose seems to be to make some kind of political point. I think Armstrong is being used for someone's political agenda.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:18 p.m.

You are absolutely correct. He is being raised by some to the level of James Meredith as a collegiate civil rights icon - which he (Armstrong) clearly is not. There ain't much money to be had here, but a lot of publicity for the attorneys and their clients.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:32 p.m.

The qualified first- amendment &quot;pass&quot; that the supreme court recently gave the horrendous Phelps family cult raises the bar for ( morally justified) suits such as Armstrongs against Shirvell. But the lethal international fallout from &quot;pastor&quot; Terry ( &quot;burn baby quran, burn&quot;) Jones' stunt in florida seems , according to today's NPR, to have lit another ( figurative) fire under some legislators who now ( properly) question whether there should be limits on free expression. I hope eventually Armstrong does get a nice payday from this case. Also such an outcome would be a good precedent for other local cases of patent harassment and defamation.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 10:32 a.m.

john---yes ...i am indeed saying that reactions should be factored in, although not as the dominant variable, in what is considered acceptable speech/actions. agree or not..but i do think certain standards of both expression and related behavior should exist. and from my point of view protecting the 'right' of patent bigots and fanatics to vent is socially destructive.... But those who both vent and kill are the worst, so i don't advocate the same penalties for shirvell, jones and some of my local 'bete noirs' as i do for al qaeda , the taliban etc.

John of Saline

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:47 p.m.

And this Jones stuff has nothing to do with this civil suit; that will be decided on whether Shirvell threatened Armstrong by his behavior, or defamed him, two well-established limits on speech (though courts in this country rarely go for defamation). &quot;Pastor&quot; Jones wasn't aiming his &quot;protest&quot; (or whatever) at a particular person. He was just expressing his opinion. That's protected, like it or not.

John of Saline

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:41 p.m.

You're saying that speech should be dealt with based on reaction. Based on that, the people who passed flag-burning laws--repeatedly struck down by the Supreme Court--would have been better served to resort to violence. After all (if your theory prevailed), then the flag-burner could be fined for being a&quot;provocation.&quot; Bad provoker! Expressing stuff that led to violence! You should know better!


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:27 p.m.

no not saying what you attribute to me at all.... i believe the afghan rioters, many of whom were taliban, should be killed or captured ( and imprisoned for a long long time)if possible . i dont believe jones should be killed...just fined, or otherwise non lethally constrained from such stunts.. And the the theo van gogh case, with which i am quite familiar, happened in an atmosphere ( in 2004) less charged than today... Significantly ian burumas book on it &quot;A murder in amsterdam&quot; has the subtitle : &quot;... the limits to tolerance&quot; which i believe cuts both ways ...toward violent extremists and those that gratuitously provoke them...although punishments should certainly be more severe for the former. In either case '1st amendment rights ' should also come with responsibilities and not be utterly boundryless as both &quot;ghost ' and oliver wendell holmes ( and his &quot;wrongly crying fire in a crowded theater&quot; axiom) have noted..'' and shirvell transgressed that too i believe.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:04 p.m.

There are limits on free speech. The &quot;Clear and Present Danger&quot; doctrine, established by the Supreme Court in Schenck v. US (1919) remains the clear standard, and there are many legal scholars who believe that the less rigorous &quot;bad tendencies&quot; (U.S. ex rel. Turner v. Williams, 1904) test still applies, as well. Good Night and Good Luck

John of Saline

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

Jones is an idiot, but that is legal in America. Once you open the door to violent outbursts by others being an excuse to shut speech down, those that are willing to use violent means will use it freely to get their way. What's the lesson here? What if fundamentalist Christian mobs destroy art galleries and kill people in New York the next time some poseur artist tries to be &quot;edgy&quot; with a Christian subject? By your logic, the artist should be punished as well as the rioters/murderers; after all, the artist knew he was being offensive and provoked the attack. That way lies more and more violence, not less. Too many people nowadays cower in fear rather than stand up to the violent nutballs. Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death for making a movie. The fact that the supposed champions of free speech in the film industry make no mention of him as an example says everything you need to know about their &quot;bravery&quot; regarding free speech.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

john of saline...of course i place primary blame on the lethal afghan rioters and in fact there are few on this site who have been more consistently ( and i daresay knowledgeably) critical of Islamic extremist excesses. But at the same time , as we justly combat such folks abroad, idiots like terry jones ( or abusive abu ghraib guards etc) who pour gasoline on an already raging fire are indeed a menace to our soldiers, our NGO-ers ... and our cause.... and just as the abu ghraibers had their heads handed to them so should the likes of jones ( and, i'd argue, domestic apologists for jihadism too...and we have a number of such locally that i'd love to see shut down, as roadman knows..) i'm being completely logically consistant ..and also pragmatic...and applaud those politicians of either party who are likewise.

John of Saline

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:25 p.m.

bedrog, do you blame Jones for the deaths, or the people who actually did the killing? If you blame Jones, you just gave every potentially-violent nut an excuse to suppress free expression: &quot;Don't say/do something I don't like or I'll go on a rampage! I'm not responsible, because you said/did a bad thing!&quot;


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:24 p.m.

...and that amendment may be coming, if todays NPR report is accurate. Lets definitely plan on getting together to celebrate when that happens. Maybe at SELMA!


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:15 p.m.

There can be no limits on free expression absent a constitutional amendment. The limits are defined by the U.S. Supreme Court and federal appellate courts. There was discussion of a flag-burning amendment to except such behavior from the reach of a Supreme Court decision in the 1980s that protected such conduct from criminal prosecution by virtue of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment, but that talk petered out.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Armstrong has repeatedly refused to stand up for the civil rights of more than 2,000 individuals given trespass warnings at UM. He does not think they deserve equal protection or due process but he wants us to stand up for the civil rights of the LGBT community. What Shirvell wrote was vile but Chris Armstrong wants to be a public figure and an activist for civil rights of the LGBT community. He needs to be willing to stand up for everyone's civil rights and sometimes that means he will be a target of unfair criticism. Where are his damages? Few people took statements on Shirvell's blog as truth. Most understood them to be, at best, hyperbole. He did not lose a job. He was not expelled. The President of the University gave a speech supporting him and the Board of Regents passed a resolution of support. I can't imagine how the community could have been more supportive. So where are his damages?

Matt Cooper

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 10:02 a.m.

Right. It's all Armstrongs fault. Really? And just so we knnow, Armstong was accused by Shirvell of pursuing a &quot;radical homosexual agenda&quot;...which would mean exactly...what? He pushed for lower tuition. Wow!!! Highly radical and incendiary agenda there by golly!!! And he pushed for lower prices in the dorm food service!!! Oh my goodness, get out!!!!! Yes...radical homosexual agenda, I'd say.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:44 a.m.

Good points, trespass. While Shirvell's conduct is embarrasing to the State Bar, I believe that Armsrong has been less than ideal in confronting the Shirvell problem. He drops his PPO request. He tells a police detective not to impart to Shirvell that his conduct is unwelcome, which the Prosecutor cites in his memo as a partial reason for not initiating a criminal stalking prosecution against Shirvell. He is not fired from his internship or arrested due to Shirvell's conduct. Shirvell drops the annoying behavior and Armstrong quietly completes his tenure as MSA president. There are no known substantial damages or injury to Armstrong like the plaintiff in Snyder had from the Westboro defendants - medically confirmed psychiatric injuries.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:43 p.m.

In a Michigan Daily interview with Armstrong, he said that when he first set foot on campus he decided he would become a UM LGBT activist, given the many organizations existing. If I recall correctly, he claims to even have changed his course study plans to fulfill his new mission. Shirvell merely accused Armstrong of what Armstrong said he was going to do - pursue a homosexual agena, which to more than a few is radical.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

People have made accusations that will have to be worked out in court. But we all have keep in mind that the principle of free speech is too important to our way of life than transitory irritants like Shirvell or the WBC or whoever.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

This is not about free speech as some comments suggest. This is about stalking as defined by Michigan law: (d) "Stalking" means a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested and that actually causes the victim to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.


Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:33 a.m.

Rod: You are correct. Thanks.

Rod Johnson

Thu, Apr 7, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

Roadman, I think you mean &quot;flaunted.&quot;


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:08 p.m.

The stalking statute expressly concedes its unenforceability to the extent it conflicts with the First Amendment. Further the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office recognized Armstrong was a public figure who openly flouted his homosexual nature when declining to isue criminal stalking charges against Shirvell.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

@Roadman: This is a civil suit, therefore it must be filed in circuit court. Armstrong has a solid case against Shirvell. Although Shirvell's freedom of speech is protected, it does not protect him from proximate cause of injury. The complaint outlines the actions which can clearly be defined as malice. Therefore, Armstrong has a great chance of collecting for injury. The comparison of Westboro in this article needs to be redefined. This is comparing apples to oranges. For example, Shirvell has the right to picket and speak his mind regarding the public offical. However, according to the complaint, Shirvell contacted Armstong's employer, and the organization that he was participating in an internship describing Armstrong being involved in criminal activity. This is a direct misrepresentation. Shirvell intentionally engaged in both slander and libel. Again, this is according to the complaint, and if the allegations are correct, Armstrong has a strong civil suit against Shirvell.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 11:46 p.m.

@Michigan Reader: I stand corrected. A 1908 Supreme Court opinion does not allow federal question jurisdiction to be invoked where a potential defense is expected to raise a federal issue.

Michigan Reader

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 11:03 p.m.

Roadman--The federal question is a matter for the plaintiff to intoduce. Subject-matter jurisdiction. First amendment protections would be the defense's move, only.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

Also, the contact to the employer may not be actionable since Shirvell is a public figure working in the office of a public figure and the call is about a matter of public concern - something the Snyder opinion held was constitutionaly protected. As I stated above earlier, the Snyder court, citing a case involving Hustler Magazine and Jerry Falwell, defamatory statements so outrageously false as not worthy of reasonable belief are also not actionable. Snyder was emotionally injured by Westboro Church website postings accusing his dead son of sexual immorality due to a bad upbringing -things which were false - and which the court stated were not worthy of reasonable belief - although being malicious. The Snyder court held that even intentional infliction of emotional distress can be protected under the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

Not necessarily, the civil suit could have been filed in U.S. District Court since the claims will necessarily involve a &quot;federal question&quot; - the applicability of the First Amendment as a defense to the suit. The United States Code gives federal courrts jurisdiction over such matters - although Armstrong's attorney preferred filing in the state circuit court venue. Unless you have read the actual Snyder opinion and the egregious acts committed by the Westboro defendants along with the resulting harm sustained by the plaintiff, you may not understand why Shirvell may get off here.

Kelly Davenport

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:05 p.m.

A comment was removed because it contained a personal attack.

David Cahill

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:02 p.m.

It's great that provided a link to the complaint. The legal process should be as transparent as possible.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:10 p.m.

Maybe the ACLU should intervene? Do you still call the shots with them locally, David?

Michael Overton

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:38 p.m.

From what I recall, there's one very significant difference between what the Westboro Baptist folks are doing and what Shirvell has done: Show up to picket with with a megaphone at 2 or 3 in the morning. In front of his house. Not even Westboro has had the gall to do their &quot;protests&quot; in front of the houses of slain soldiers or AIDS victims. That part is going to be harder to justify or defend.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

Not really, Jewish activists marched with a permit in Seven Hills, Ohio at the home of exonerated war crimes defendant John Demanjuk pursuant to a city permit. Homosexual activists marched in front of the home of Mississippi Senator Trent Lott after being bussed in by Michael Moore - they were guarded by police. A Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner, Mr. Bernstein, had picketing in front of his home by conservatives protesting his affirmative action views. All protected by the First Amendment's Free Speech Clause.

Moscow On The Huron

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:53 p.m.

They certainly would picket outside a home at 2 or 3 in the morning if there were an audience.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

There's the &quot;down side&quot; of freedom of speech. Whether it's the Westboro Baptists or Andy Shirivell people have a right to present their opinions.

Michigan Reader

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 10:54 p.m.

aawolve--you CAN yell fire when there is none. It's when somebody gets jurt as a result that you can be held liable.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 8:38 p.m.

Nothing is more misunderstood in this country than the First Amendment. There are still limits and consequences. Yelling fire when there is none, slander , and libel are examples of speech that is not and should not be protected.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:18 p.m.

I believe that the Snyder versus Phelps case is the only shot Shirvell has at exoneration. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in no uncertain terms expressing disgust for the Westboro's creeds, but upheld their right to express their opinions on matters of public interest. The Snyder court also indicate that false statements that are so outrageous as not to be believed are not actionable defamation. The plaintiff in Snyder had uncontested medically confirmed psychiatric disorders caused by the conduct of the Westboro defendants but the Court upheld that the defendants' conduct was protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. Associate Justice Sam Alioto issued a vigorous dissent in suport of the plaintiff.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

&quot;FormerUniversity of Michigan&quot; Nope still missed it. Put that ad for editor out yet?

Kelly Davenport

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:27 p.m.

The typo has been corrected. If you see something else wrong, let us know. Otherwise, please refrain from arguing with each other.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

You should update the headline too and note the error in you previous correction. You all should hire an editor...

Lynn Liston

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5 p.m.

I question some of this statement: &quot;I have every confidence in the world that when all of these allegations are dealt with and addressed … I'm confident he's going to be vindicated and the case will be dismissed,&quot; Thomas said.&quot; The case may be dismissed on constitutional grounds as 'protected free speech', but Shirvell, like the Westboro Church, will never be vindicated. Vile and distasteful conduce is always what it is.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:11 p.m.

The Snyder case may be distinguishable legally as the Westboro Church defendants were not anywhere near the Snyder funeral.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

The lawsuit complaint alleges that Shirvell's alma mater, Ave Maria Law School, opposed his admission to the State Bar of Michigan and that Shirvell had a history of multiple arrests before joining the Department of Attorney General. How did this individual get an appointment as an Assistant Attorney General with such a background? I am surprised no civil action has been filed against the State Of Michigan for not supervising adequately his activities while on the job.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:54 p.m.

*former president. the new president was sworn in on Monday evening

Kyle Feldscher

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:03 p.m.

Thank you Kevin, I've updated the story to reflect that.


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 4:45 p.m.

No big surprise that the case was filed in state circuit court due to a perceved liberal venue as opposed to federal court. The real limitation for Armstrong will be lack of collectability of Shirvell, who already indicated he may seek bankruptcy protection. But a lot of publicity for Armstrong, Shirvell and their attorneys.