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The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 2 that a federal jury correctly found former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell liable for defamation, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and stalking for his relentless campaign against an openly gay student leader at the University of Michigan. The Courts did offer a small glimmer of hope to Shirvell, reducing the monetary damages levied against him from $4.5 million to $3.5 million.
“Shirvell’s conduct here was highly reprehensible,” the three judge panel wrote in its decision. “It involved an ongoing pattern of intentional misconduct. While Shirvell claimed that his conduct was political in nature, it was in fact highly personal. It was instigated by, and largely focused on, Armstrong’s sexual orientation. Although Shirvell claimed that his only goal was to persuade Armstrong to resign his position, Shirvell’s conduct was grossly excessive, reaching far beyond Armstrong’s leadership and agenda and striking at the core of his personal life. It resulted in– and was calculated to result in–distress and intimidation, not just for Armstrong, but also for his family and friends.”
Shirvell made headlines in 2010 when it was discovered he was an Assistant Attorney General for Michigan and was running an online blog criticizing Armstrong. Armstrong was the openly gay leader of the University of Michigan student body. In addition to blogging on Armstrong, accusing him of all kinds of inappropriate activities, Shirvell also followed the young leader to numerous places, and even stalked out Armstrong’s home. When Between The Lines wrote about Shirvell’s identity, it resulted in a series of national stories and blistering hot criticisms.
This ruling came weeks after a Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Shirvell was fired for cause by then Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruling blocked Shirvell from collecting unemployment benefits.
The federal Appeals Court – which, in November, upheld Michigan’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples – also upheld sanctions levied against Shirvell by the court related to his conduct against Armstrong’s attorney, Deborah Gordon. After being fired by Cox, Shirvell accused Gordon of interfering with the Attorney General’s internal investigation of Shirvell. Gordon countered that Shirvell had filed a lawsuit claim against her which contained “outright, knowing falsehoods.”
The Court, under court rules, dismissed Shirvell’s case, and imposed non-monetary sanctions on him. He appealed to the federal appeals court arguing the court could not impose court rules on him. Gordon filed a complaint alleging that his appeal was “without merit” and violated court rules once again. The appeals court upheld the sanctions and ruled that Shirvell’s appeal was without merit as Gordon alleged.