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In Ann Arbor, State's Attorney Is Accused of Stalking, Hate Speech

5 years ago
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It smells like a "Law and Order" plot. And perhaps, one day soon, the story of Chris Armstrong and Andrew Shirvell will make it onto the small screen. Let's just hope the it contains a safe and peaceful ending.

Armstrong is a 21-year-old University of Michigan student and the openly gay president of the university's student council. Shirvell is an assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan, a University of Michigan alum, and evidently an anti-homosexual advocate who cannot stomach the thought of Armstrong's student leadership. Shirvell has established a blog -- named after Armstrong -- through which he has launched an online assault upon Armstrong and what he claims is Armstrong's "radical homosexual agenda" to "recruit" students to "the homosexual lifestyle." Shirvell apparently also follows Armstrong around to rallies, one of the reasons why the university, in an extraordinary move, reportedly banned Shirvell from campus last month.

But even the U of M's reach is not infinite in Ann Arbor. On Sept. 5, Shirvell posted on his blog video of the Ann Arbor police breaking up an off-campus party at Armstrong's home on Labor Day weekend. In addition to proving that Armstrong is like thousands of other college students around the country whose campus parties have been shut down by the cops, the video also established that Shirvell was hanging around Armstrong's house at 1:30 a.m. to get the shot. For this reason, and many others, Armstrong went to court Monday to get a personal protection order, akin to a restraining order, against Shirvell. The beleaguered college student is asking for an injunction against a state attorney -- and that's a man-bites-dog story if there ever were one. (Update: the hearing, scheduled for Monday afternoon, was delayed three weeks, until Oct. 25.)

Shirvell's boss, Attorney General Mike Cox, so far has refused to fire the alleged stalker in his employ. Cox told The Associated Press on Thursday: "Part of the video is being outside this young man's house at 1:40 on a Sunday morning. Clearly, I wouldn't recommend that to any state employee to be doing. That being said, it's not something where I can walk in one day and say, 'I don't like what he has on there, let's broom him,' He has First Amendment protections." Not so, said Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, who was also once the state's attorney general. She wrote last week, "If I was still attorney general and Andrew Shirvell worked for me, he would have already been fired."

Short of firing him, Cox by now might have sat Shirvell down and told him he has a clear choice: either stay in the attorney general's office working on behalf of the people of Michigan or go back into the private sector so he can continue his crusade against Armstrong. Shirvell may, indeed, have a constitutional right to free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union thinks so. But he has no constitutional right to a job paid for by Michigan's taxpayers. By targeting Armstrong on his private time, Shirvell's public work now is tainted by a clear conflict of interest against an entire class of people -- gays and lesbians in Michigan -- whose cases and causes may come before him. And it's a taint that affects the entire attorney general's office, Michigan's official representatives in court.

Perhaps that dialogue between Cox and Shirvell, employer and employee, already has occurred. By late Friday, Shirvell apparently had taken a leave of absence from his post amid reports that Cox had sent him home. The state has not disclosed whether Shirvell is on paid or unpaid leave. But evidently he will face a disciplinary hearing when he returns. Cox now says that he hadn't read all of Shirvell's blog when he made his initial comments supporting his subordinate's free speech rights -- which also doesn't bode well for Shirvell's future as a paid employee of the state. It will be especially difficult to justify Shirvell's continued employment in the attorney general's office if he is formally subjected to the restraining order Armstrong seeks. State attorneys are supposed to protect people from harassment; they aren't supposed to be the harassers.

Apart from whatever criminal sanctions may result from Shirvell's conduct, he also may have breached legal ethics rules and thus subjected himself to professional sanctions down the road. The Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, the ethical guidelines designed to guide the conduct of licensed lawyers in the state, wouldn't have come up as a talking point Monday even if the hearing had gone ahead as scheduled. But they are worth noting. For example, the preamble to the rules state: "A lawyer's conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer's business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law's procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others."

Rule 8.4 of the MRPC states that a lawyer engages in professional misconduct when the lawyer "engages in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice" or "engages in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, misrepresentation or violation of the criminal law, where such conduct reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer." The comment following the rule seems even more applicable here. It states: "Lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities going beyond those of other citizens. A lawyer's abuse of public office can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of attorney."

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What a lot of you are missing is that the Attorney General and the Assistant Attorney General are in a position where they can't express views like this because of their jobs. Shirvell's pay check comes from the people of Michigan since he works for the people of Michigan. Since he has such a strong view gay people might not bring a case to him because of the way he acts.Besides he his payed with money that is collected from homosexual people's taxes, shouldn't he be worried about that too?

October 05 2010 at 12:57 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Geez luise, this guy (Shirvell) was smart enough to got through law school (I'm guessing here)Surely he has enough judgement to know that what he is doing to Armstrong is not legal,not ethical, not ok. It doesn't say much for Mr. Cox either does it?

October 04 2010 at 10:22 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

Maybe Shirvell should give free legal assistance to Christian leaders who get busted for gay sex scandals. After all, they must be innocent; right?

October 04 2010 at 4:11 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
Mr. Guyton

Its embarrassing to live in the state of michigan, and this guy still has a job. I saw the CNN interview. The guy looks and sounds like a mental patient. No disrespect to the mentally impaired, but I don't a mental midget like this being 2nd in line to the chief law enforcement position in the state

October 04 2010 at 4:07 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply

Shirvell who must have heard in law school something to the effect that everyone entitled to equal justice and representation. As an an officer of the court he seems to demonstrate that it ends with gays & lesbians as far as he is concerned. Regarding his inability to remain neutral in law, ever, what is the question here ? Should he not be working at Home depot by now ? Sounds like a conflict to me for the State to employ the homophob.

October 04 2010 at 3:33 PM Report abuse +13 rate up rate down Reply

Having Shirvell in the Attorney General's office is nuts, and no different than having a Klan member trying to fairly represent all the people.

October 04 2010 at 3:30 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bergen1's comment

He seems better suited for the style of the Federal Justice Department: just pick the laws you care to enforce and ignore the rest.

October 04 2010 at 6:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Has anyone asked the obvious question, why this guy was filming at 1:40am in the first place? What was he really after?? Mark my words, it will come out shortly that Andrew Shirvell is secretly having relations with young college boys. Never fails. Find me the biggest homophobe/Anti-gay activitst, and I'll show you a deep closet homosexual.

October 04 2010 at 3:12 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply

Based on the facts as reported, this story doesn't raise my eyebrows it makes my head explode. Michigan State AG Michael Cox, we all expect a quick and complete investigation and willingnes to cut Mr. Shirvell loose.

October 04 2010 at 2:45 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

Wow Im gay man and I dont push my homosexual agenda or try to recruit anyone male or female and neither does Cris Armstrong the openly gay president of the university's student council.We dont want special rights we just want equal rights..If anyone has a problem with that its their problem not mine and certainly not his ...When I first saw this article and what was transpiring a few days ago with Andrew Shirvell the assistant AG in Michigan and with his comments on his blog that state = Armstrong's "radical homosexual agenda" to "recruit" students to "the homosexual lifestyle." from Shirvell etc ..etc..I don't think it is the place for Mr Shirvell being in the position he is is should be pushing his own AGENDA ( Mr Shirvell's ) on anyone since he is in the position he is in as the assistant AG..I dont beleive he can speak for and shouldnt or represent how the majority of People feel in the State of Michigan people can make the choice themselves to be Straight ,Gay,Bisexual.Metrosexual and so on ..and it seems to me that Mr Andrew Shirvell ..Ahem... may have Issues with his OWN Sexuality and I beleive that is why he is acting in the hatefull,Unprofessional manner such as he is acting with ..Mr Shirvell My advice to you ( and I do know that you ARE going to be reading some of these comments..) Is to Grow up,and Just come out of your closet and deal with your OWN Issues and sexuality before you can be so horribly judgemental about how YOU think others should act or be...and to my Gay Brothers and Lesbians ( and yes you that are also in the closet ) in Michigan stay strong there is power in numbers ..

October 04 2010 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

It is ok to be anti-gay or pro-gay, anti-gun or pro-gun, or anti-abortion or pro-abortion. State to the world your opinion. But to personally go after someone with the purpose of destroying their careers, their livelihood, their privacy, and especially from a government official who could make his threats more dangerous--- such an act is truly very un-american. State you case to the world but leave those persons alone who live within the same laws that you expect for yourself. I am unsure but there is no law against being gay. No law against having a gun in your home, no law yet to prevent a woman having an abortion early in the pregnancy. Until there is a law, back off. And for all of you with your strong anti gay opinion, Go vote for that Republican who wants to make it illegal to be gay, to be black, to be a Mexican in these White USA>

October 04 2010 at 2:40 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

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