Tuesday, April 25, 2017
The order of a Michigan Tri-County Hearing Panel disbarring former state assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell has been posted
Based on the evidence presented by the parties at the hearings held in this matter, the hearing panel found that respondent committed the professional misconduct alleged in Counts One and Two of the formal complaint. The panel found that respondent failed to treat all persons involved in the legal process with courtesy and respect and did so because of a protected personal characteristic, in violation of MRPC 6.5; brought a claim in the United States District Court for alleged tortious interference with a business relationship and thereafter continued to assert the issue without a basis for doing that was not frivolous, in violation of MRPC 3.1; filed an appeal of the United States District Court's imposition of Rule 11 Sanctions and thereafter continued to assert the issue without a basis for doing so that was not frivolous, in violation of MRPC 3.1; engaged in conduct that involved 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, in violation of MRPC 8.4(b); engaged in conduct that exposed the legal profession or the courts to obloquy, contempt, censure, or reproach, in violation of MCR 9.104(2); and engaged in conduct that was contrary to justice, ethics, honesty, or good morals, in violation of MCR 9.104(3). Respondent was also found to have violated MCR 9.104(1) and (4); and MRPC 8.4(a) and (c).
Our prior coverage quoted the misconduct findings
In 2010, Christopher Armstrong was elected president of the student council at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The student council does not make University policy, but it works with, reports to, and advises the University on a range of issues.
Respondent Andrew Shirvell, a 2002 graduate of the University, worked as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan. In early 2010, respondent learned via an online newspaper report of Armstrong's election and also learned that Armstrong was openly gay. Respondent began posting on his Facebook page about Armstrong, whom he had never met. Among other comments, respondent called Armstrong "dangerous" and a "radical homosexual activist" and a "major-league fanatic who is obsessed with imposing the radical homosexual agenda on the student body." Respondent also set up a Facebook "fan page," entitled "Michigan Alumni and Others Against Chris Armstrong's Radical MSA Agenda," which purported to "expos[e] the real Chris Armstrong." Respondent urged others, via Facebook and email, to join the "pro-family" group in order to "fight against Satan's representative." Respondent took to his personal Facebook page to express outrage when Facebook deleted his "fan page" about Armstrong. Respondent wrote: "I will not be SilENCED by the likes of Armstrong. You're going down fruity-pebbles." Respondent's self-proclaimed "outrage" continued from there: "I better not see Chris Armstrong at MY [church] parish in Charlotte -that's all I got to say." Respondent claimed that Armstrong was scared of him and-in commenting on another story involving gay students-"remember[edJ the good old days when 'guys' like this would get their asses kicked at school"
Not content with Facebook posting, respondent then established a blog entitled "Chris Armstrong Watch," which discussed Armstrong's "character and his agenda and other items." The blog purported to be a "watch site," providing "testimony" and "an expose of the REAL Chris Armstrong." The blog was accessible to the public from April 201 0 until September 30, 2010, when respondent removed it from public view. The blog featured a picture of Armstrong's face next to a swastika. The blog called Armstrong "a radical homosexual activist, racist, elitist, & liar" and attributed to Armstrong a "Nazi-like hatred of the First Amendment," explaining, "Much like Nazi Germany's leaders, many of whom were also homosexuals, Armstrong believes that any and all opposition must be suppressed by whatever means necessary." The blog further stated that Armstrong "mocks Christians," and called Armstrong an "anti-Christian bigot." One entry claimed that Armstrong attended an event "whose intent was to encourage underage drinking," and that Armstrong "spent most of this time [after the semester ended] engaging in underage binge-drinking." The blog made repeated references to Armstrong's participation in -and facilitation of -underage drinking. It alleged that Armstrong showed contempt toward law enforcement. Respondent -re-posting online conversations between Armstrong and another student at the University -claimed that these conversations revealed Armstrong's "tendency toward sexual promiscuity," and thus labeled Armstrong "a perverted homosexual exhibitionist." Respondent interpreted another online conversation as demonstrating that Armstrong had previously hosted an "orgy" in his college dormitory, at which "homosexual shenanigans" were rampant. Days after this entry, respondent authored another blog post proclaiming: "Armstrong engages in sexual escapades at 'churches & children's playgrounds.'" Respondent linked Armstrong to "possible involvement" in violent attacks against places of worship in the wake of California's passage of Proposition 8. Respondent alleged that Armstrong used his welcome to freshmen as "a thinly veiled attempt to cause sexually confused, and perhaps some impressionable, 17 -and-18-year-olds to experiment sexually with members of their own gender."
Respondent also reported on an alleged romantic relationship between Armstrong and another student. Respondent claimed that the other student was "not out of the closet," but that Armstrong "basically seduced" the student and quickly became obsessed with him. Explaining that the other student, "[t]hanks in large part to Armstrong's influence ... has indeed morphed into a proponent of the radical homosexual agenda," respondent called Armstrong "a very, very twisted sick individual who is manipulative and cunning in a most devilish way."
Respondent also appeared on television to rant about Armstrong. In September 2010, in an interview on local station WXYZ, respondent said that Armstrong held the presidential position in order "to promote special rights for homosexuals at the cost of ... heterosexual stUdents." Respondent later appeared in front of a national audience with CNN's Anderson Cooper. Standing by his blog and Facebook posts, respondent told Cooper that he had "gotten stuff from third-party sources," and argued that Armstrong was not giving interviews because "he can't defend what's on the blog." When Cooper suggested that respondent was a bigot, respondent retorted, "The real bigot here is Chris Armstrong." Two days later, back before a national audience on Comedy Central's The Daily Show, respondent said that Chris was "acting like a gay Nazi," and that this explained his decision to include a picture of Armstrong next to a swastika on the blog.
The order indicates that he now resides in Florida. (Mike Frisch)