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Posted on Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:09 p.m.

Andrew Shirvell asks judge to withdraw from hearing case against him because of ties to state rep

By David Jesse

Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell is asking a Washtenaw County judge to withdraw from hearing a request for a personal protection order against him because of the judge's ties to state representative and former gubernatorial candidate Alma Wheeler Smith.

In an Oct. 6 court filing, Shirvell requests that Judge Nancy Francis recuse herself from hearing the request by University of Michigan student body President Chris Armstrong for a restraining order against Shirvell.


Alma Wheeler Smith, standing, is pictured with her sister, Judge Nancy Francis, in this file photo. Also included in the picture is Conan Smith and his wife, Rebekkah Warren. All four are elected officials.

Shirvell claims Francis is unable to impartially hear the case because Wheeler Smith, Francis' sister, has been publicly critical of him.

“The actions/statements of Representative Wheeler Smith, who is the sister of Judge Francis, clearly constitutes grounds for disqualification. At the very least, the statement of Representative Wheeler Smith and the nature of her relationship to Judge Francis create an appearance of impropriety,” Shirvell said in a court filing.

Francis did not respond to a request for comment today. Armstrong, through university representatives, declined to comment. 

Shirvell and his attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

Wheeler Smith said she believes her sister can deliver an impartial decision.

Court records show Francis will rule on the motion and the personal protection order request at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 25.

Armstrong filed the request against Shirvell in September after months of being “harassed” by Shrivell, who is an U-M alumnus, records show. Shirvell launched a blog and showed up at numerous events criticizing Armstrong for his “radical homosexual agenda,” which includes pushing for gender-neutral housing on campus. Armstrong is the university's first openly gay student body president.

In his filing, Shirvell, who is currently on leave from his job, said his previous interactions with Wheeler Smith and her public comments about him make it impossible for Francis to be impartial.

He cites an Oct. 1 interview on CNN in which Wheeler Smith is critical of him as proof of her opinions.

During that interview, host Anderson Cooper asks Wheeler Smith about her interactions with Shirvell.

“Well, the encounters have been hostile,” she responded, according to a transcript of the interview posted on CNN’s website. “They have been rather intimidating. If I were a regular individual, I think I would have been very nervous about them. But I'm a politician, and I'm used to running across people who disagree with me. So, I certainly reached that point with Andrew Shirvell.

“I think he is beyond the pale, if you will. He should be dismissed from the attorney general's office. He's using the power of that office, he's using the representation of the office in his encounters in order to intimidate and win favor and points for his cause.”

In an interview with this afternoon, Wheeler Smith outlined more of her interactions with Shirvell. She said they started as normal political picketing and handing out flyers at parades.

“That’s fine,” she said. “But his contact became increasingly hostile.”

She said Shirvell tried in 2004 to force leaders at St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor to cancel a seminar featuring Wheeler Smith and pushed people to boycott University Bank of Ann Arbor when Wheeler Smith joined the board of directors. Shirvell told The Ann Arbor News at the time that he was leading those charges against Wheeler Smith, and her son, Conan Smith, because they were Catholic and pro-choice.

Wheeler Smith said Shirvell’s actions have gone beyond simple political disagreement. She said she’s been taken aback by the “vehemence” and the “level of hostility” Shirvell has displayed.

She repeated her assertion that Attorney General Mike Cox should fire him.

“I think he has really made himself a liability for the attorney general.”

David Jesse covers higher education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Mon, Oct 18, 2010 : 8:17 p.m.

Just for clarificaion Andrew Shirvell worked on the campaign of Mike Cox. He is heavily involved in politics and this is the reason he was hired for his position. He was a political hire. Hired and given a job where it is hard to get rid of him. It was payback. He did not just walk in off of the streets. He is political and he has claimed this is politics. He goes after politicians as a private citizen and as an agent of the Republican party and also right wing Christian groups. This is verifiable fact.


Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 6:40 p.m.

"Shirvell's continued employment by the State Attorney General's is support by the State Attorney General. Shirvell hasn't been fired because what he is doing is right, this proves it. So I have no reason not to do the same thing whenever I want, this proves that gay people don't deserve to have any rights and should be punished." This (opening paragraph) thinking is a load of bull(insert expletive here) and makes me sick, it's also the way a lot of people will see what is happening. They will see it as an endorsement. Just how far does Shirvell need to go before they (AG office) act?


Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

Chris Armstrong is NOT a politician, Andrew Shirvell is. Shirvell frames it that Chris is a politician and some have taken the bait and allowing him to use it as an excuse.


Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 2:14 p.m.

Using shirvell's logic SCOTUS Justice Thomas has to recuse himself due to his wife.


Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

Shirvell is really one piece of work. It is all about him and what he wants. Anyone that doesn't agree with him is wrong. Shirvell has framed this entire thing to make himself into a victim. He is trying to overturn hate crimes protections for gays. I would like to know how he got the amount of paid leave time he has. There is no way any he can still be on leave and get paid without a doctors order.


Sat, Oct 16, 2010 : 9:17 a.m.

Uh, Shirvell just digs himself in deeper and deeper. There's nothing wrong with publicly criticizing a politician (either Armstrong or Wheeler-Smith) or strongly opposing their actions. When you do it in a way that seems, well, unhinged, that's different. Then, when you're a licensed attorney, and you make an extremely weak motion to disqualify a judge... way to bury yourself. Sorry, but a blood relation to a political opponent, who isn't even a party to the lawsuit, doesn't disqualify a judge. If it were Wheeler-Smith asking for the protective order, that'd be different. Nancy Francis knows her job. If there are legal grounds for a personal protective order, then she'll issue one; if not, she won't, even if she finds the defendant's politics and behavior obnoxious. From what I've read, I don't know if there are grounds for a personal protection order, though; Armstrong signed up to be a public figure, so he's got to put up with personal criticism, even if he finds it hurtful. What he doesn't have to put up with are threats to his physical safety or repeated criminal acts (like trespassing). So, we'll see what happens.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 4:32 p.m.

Good legal move by Shirvell! There are three Engler-appointed circuit judges on the bench that may be more sympathethetic to Shirvell. One is Archie Brown("Brown the Clown"). In 2002 he made national news by re-assigning all adoption cases involving unmarried couples and dismissing them, thus effectively barring gay and lesbian couples from adopting children in Washtenaw County. Prior to this Judges Francis and Shelton routinely approved such adoptions and Washtenaw was the only one of 83 counties in this state allowing LGBT couples to adopt. Judge Brown is up for re-election this November and the LGBT community should enter a write-in vote against Brown as a protest to his anti-gay policies. Judge Timothy Connors was a donor to the Michigan Republican Party and to the 1998 and 2008 campaigns of ultraconservative Chief Justice Clifford Taylor. His wife, Margaret Connors, is a former member of the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's office with a record of unsuccessful prosecutions against civil rights activists (e.g. Shanta Driver and Dr. Catherine Wilkerson). One suspects that either of these local jurists may harbor more than a twinge of admiration toward Shirvell or his philosophies. Ahh the GOP-controlled circuit court in this county..... how liberals tolerate and re-elect these bozos is beyond me.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 2:37 p.m.

I had a hunch Shirvell would start playing legal games to drag this thing out. Bringing it into the legal system is going to allow him to make life even more difficult for Armstrong. Which is shameful. He likely has many more tricks up his sleeve to make him look like the victim, he appears to be expert at it.


Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 1:19 p.m.

It keeps getting stranger. Why did CNN interview Ms. Wheeler-Smith in the first place? But she did make a good point: "But I'm a politician, and I'm used to running across people who disagree with me. So, I certainly reached that point with Andrew Shirvell." So while she found him hostile, she appears to not fear him for her personal safety. But Mr Armstrong does not understand this and he wants Shirvell shut up. He chose to take an elected office and needs to learn to put up with opposition. The PPO request should be denied - by a different judge. When you add the political perspective it adds the free speech/assembly rights into the mix and we have to avoid the appearance of prior restraint by an elected official based on criticism. As noted recently by the chief justice of the 9th Circuit (a Reagan appointee), Big Brother is looming in the distance. That said, Shirvell is a goof. Why protest the actions of a student govt with little or no influence, long after you have graduated? Barely any students give a hoot about student govt anyway and it would not exist at all if the student body had the option of not paying the mandatory fees. Grown up and move on, you are not a student anymore.

rusty shackelford

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 8:07 a.m.

Recusal requests are almost never granted. If the judge didn't find the need to recuse herself on her own initiative, she's not going to by request. Shirvell is just trying to lay grounds (however baseless) for appeal. In other words, don't expect him to let this die any time soon.

Sam Adems

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 5:11 a.m.

@lorie hit the nail on the head here. The psychological term for what she is describing is "projection": the individual assumes that you will act a certain way, because he or she would act that way if he or she was in your shoes. The Judge Giles ruling makes a lot of sense to me. Otherwise, defendants could pick which judge they want by just attacking the relatives of each judge they don't like until they get assigned a judge they do like!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 8:41 p.m.

What a waste of taxpayer's money. This is absurd and should be remembered on November 2nd. We must do a better job of electing our government officials.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 7:33 p.m.

For his next move in this episodic drama, Shirvell should file an urgent request for a PPO against both Alma Wheeler Smith and Rebekah Warren, on account of their serial public threats to impose a graduated tax on him.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 6:36 p.m.

Why Andrew Shirvell still employed by the state?! Has it not been established he has violated certain parts of his contract and Mike Cox agreed he met the criteria of being a cyber bully. Hey kids here's a great example of government at work. Its OK for these guys to break the law but you better not. And as AG Cox goes his tenure in office hasn't exactly been a shinning example and his political career appears to be near its end.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 6:02 p.m.

Fire him. He should have that restraining order in place. He is exactly what is wrong with prosecutors.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 5:20 p.m.

This is more than the two being relatives. Wheeler had interaction with the guy and then displayed strong negative feelings about him on national tv. It's now more than simply being related so it's not totally unreasonable to believe a bias could exist. The request therefore seems, from a laymans perspective, to have some merit. That said, this guy's actions leading up to this are offensive, repulsive, disgusting, etc.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 5:16 p.m.

"If you shoot at the queen - you must kill her." If she doesn't recuse herself - what then? Shirvell just directly challenged the professional integrity of the person deciding Armstrong's request. Probably not the sharpest litigation strategy...

Paul Taylor

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 5:11 p.m.

Who is representing our esteemed Assistant AG?


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 5:02 p.m.

Much as I dislike Ave Maria's purpose and politics, I don't think it's completely fair to blame them for Shirvell. They've graduated hundreds of other people, none of whom (as far as I know) have exhibited the kind of obsessive behavior Shirvell has with Armstrong. This guy's special, and would probably have been special even if his legal training and politics were different.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:50 p.m.

@annarbor Judge Simpson certainly wouldn't allow any grandstanding! Neither would treetowncartel's suggestion of Judge Shelton. But as I read it he wants her to recuse herself because he attacked her sister's politics. If he attacks a relative of every judge should he get a pass? I like Shirvell drivel? But I'm going to call it Shirvell Dirvell. As in, "That sounds as crazy as Shirvell Dirvell."


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:47 p.m.

Shirvell's continued employment by the State Attorney General's office, as an Asst AG, (even on administrative leave) is an indictment of the office and the current State Attorney General. Good thing he is a lame duck. His assistant AG is just lame--and potentially dangerous, it would appear, based on his actions and expressed opinions.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:38 p.m.

Thank you, Edward Vielmetti, for clarifying that for me re Judge Giles. His name escaped me at the moment..... you're the BEST!


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:32 p.m.

@ Awakened- I am in total agreement. Judge Francis is a very fair and impartial woman, and Shirvell should only hope that he finds someone of her character when he's assigned a new judge. As for my selection: Please, oh please, pick Judge J. Cedric Simpson! Not that Judge Simpson's not a fair man, he just wouldn't tolerate five minutes of Shirvell's drivel....


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:28 p.m.

Wow, nice. Let me get this correct, she feels this judge should withdraw because her sister said something negative about him? See this is what makes me think Mr. Shirvell shouldn't be an attorney. He feels ones personal views are more important that the oath he swore to the bar when he joined (or the one Judge Francis took when she became a judge). So if he thinks this long-time very experienced judge can't be judge the merits of this case because her relative said something. Then how does he approach his job as an attorney for ALL the people in this state? He can't be looking at the merits of the laws involved, he must be pursuing his own bigoted agenda. scary is that?


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:07 p.m.

Please oh please let him Draw Judge Shelton.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 4:01 p.m.

Counting former Mayor Wheeler this family has (so far) three generations of honorable service to the citizens of Washtenaw County and the State of Michigan. I'm sure there is no issue where one of them has failed to have a public opinion. Judge Francis has served on the court for many years in the most difficult position of Probate Judge. She has a record for fair-mindedness unequalled in her position. I cannot imagine that he would get anything but an opinion based upon the facts and the law. Frankly, I think he could do much worse if she recuses herself.

David Briegel

Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:57 p.m.

Andrew Shirvell is a fine example of the Atty Gen and the right wing, pseudo-Christian Republican party mainstream. This Ave Maria law school grad is making his mark as a Christian soldier in their war on sanity. Mike Cox won't exert any management authority over Shirvell and his activities thus approving his extremely radical behavior.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:44 p.m.

Sorry, but they tried the same thing with the judge that was hearing the Kwame Kilpatrick fiasco in Detroit, i.e., trying to get THAT judge disqualified because he was related to someone. That did not work, and neither will this one. Save your money and your energy, pal.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.

So, is anyone unsure that Shirvell is a little paranoid? Maybe unhinged?


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:35 p.m.

Seriously, it is a protection order! This guy is extreme.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:29 p.m.

So let me get this straight. If a judge's relative doesn't like someone, the judge has to be disqualified from a case involving them? That's crazy. If this guy had any sense, he'd just consent to a PPO and put this unfortunate experience behind him. His conduct is the height of creepiness.


Wed, Oct 13, 2010 : 3:21 p.m.

If this request is granted, all Shirvell needs to to is harass the relatives of anyone associated with this PPO. What a guy!