Court smacks down former Michigan official who stalked and harassed gay student
A federal appeals court has upheld rulings against a former Michigan assistant attorney general who viciously stalked and harassed the first gay student body president at his former university.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Andrew Shirvell got no relief from the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals, which also upheld a $3.5 million judgment against Shirvell from a 2012 jury trial.
In 2010, then-assistant Michigan attorney general Shirvell found out that his alma mater, the University of Michigan, had elected openly gay Craig Armstrong as its student body president.
Shirvell was incensed and proceeded to mount an all-out campaign devoted to attacking and smearing Armstrong. He started a blog devoted solely to maligning Armstrong, calling him a “racist,” a “liar” and an agent of “the radical homosexual agenda.” He posted copiously on the University of Michigan’s Facebook page, then began to make visits to the campus and to Armstrong’s home, once showing up at 1:30 in the morning to harass and intimidate the student president.
All of these actions, Shirvell insisted, were protected under his right to free speech.
Attorney General Steve Cox fired Shirvell in 2010, saying, “To be clear, I refuse to fire anyone for exercising their First Amendment rights, regardless of how popular or unpopular their positions might be.”
However, Cox said, Shirvell’s actions were beyond the pale, stepping over the line from free speech to stalking and harassment.
Shirvell filed for unemployment, but his claim was denied. Last month, the state appeals court upheld that decision. Furthermore, in a 3 to 0 vote, the court agreed that Cox’s office was justified in firing Shirvell, whose bizarre personal campaign against Armstrong had an adverse impact on the agency’s credibility with the public.
In 2012, a jury awarded Armstrong $4 million in his suit against Shirvell. That award was later reduced to $3.5 million. During that suit, Shirvell countersued Armstrong’s attorney, Deborah Gordon, claiming that she colluded with Cox’s office to get him fired in 2010. That suit was tossed out by a federal court.
Gordon told the Free Press via email, “Mr. Shirvell vilified, smeared and stalked a college student because he was gay. He thought all he had to do was utter the words ‘First Amendment’ and he would be protected from any consequences for his actions. He was incorrect.”
“The fact that he was — and remains — an attorney made his conduct especially abhorrent. The jury set him straight, and the Court of Appeals now has affirmed their verdict,” Gordon said.
Watch a 2010 Daily Show segment about Shirvell, embedded below: