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2010-11-04

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With trespass order modified, Shirvell and attorney ponder next steps

By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published November 3, 2010

The University’s Department of Public Safety modified its trespass order against Andrew Shirvell, a Michigan assistant attorney general, yesterday.

DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said in an interview yesterday that effective immediately modifications had been made to the trespass warning issued to Shirvell on Sept. 14. And while the modifications give Shirvell access to campus in most situations, his attorney said he's not ruling out further action against DPS or the University.

Shirvell is now allowed to be anywhere on the University’s Ann Arbor campus, though he is prohibited from attending events at which Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong would likely be in attendance and must leave events if he sees that Armstrong is present.

“Mr. Shirvell will be granted access to the U of M campus, except he is to have no physical or verbal contact with Chris Armstrong,” Brown said yesterday morning. “He’s also not supposed to be in the same place on campus where he can reasonably anticipate that Mr. Armstrong will be present.”

When asked what a reasonable anticipation of Armstrong’s presence was, Brown explained one example with regard to Armstrong’s involvement in MSA.

“I would think a reasonable person would believe that Chris probably would be present at MSA events, so therefore Mr. Shirvell shouldn’t be there,” she said. “And if Shirvell finds himself in a place where he sees Chris is present, he’s instructed he needs to leave.”

However, Brown said there is an exception to the rule, saying that Shirvell and Armstrong could be at the same event in certain situations.

“It doesn’t include intercollegiate events, meaning they could both potentially be at a football game,” Brown said.

Brown said Shirvell’s modified trespass order carries a new clause that DPS routinely adds to modified trespass orders. The clause stipulates that Shirvell must “comply with all laws, rules and regulations while on campus,” Brown said.

In an interview yesterday, Philip Thomas, Shirvell’s attorney, said he hasn’t consulted his client yet, but that he has mixed feelings about the modification to the trespass order.

“In general that portion of the decision that allows him 100-percent full rights to go back on campus and sporting events, that is gratifying. It was fair,” Thomas said. “However, what I don’t understand, and I’m not sure there is authority for, is a provision in the letter that made reference to the fact that if (Shirvell) came into some type of contact with Mr. Armstrong he would be obligated to leave.”

Thomas added, “I’m not certain there is authority for that in the rules and regulations concerning the Department of Public Safety and I’m also not certain that would even be Constitutional.”

But what steps Thomas will take next on Shirvell’s behalf remain unclear. As Thomas said yesterday, he hadn’t had an opportunity to discuss the modification with his client.

“I have not had an opportunity to speak about it with my client yet, so where we’re going to go from here I don’t know,” Thomas said.

However, Thomas said he wouldn’t rule out further action, which could include an appeal or litigation against DPS.

“At this juncture I would not be in a posture where I could rule out some type of further action regarding that provision,” Thomas said. “We have the right of course to go to court and then in addition to that in the University rules and regulations there is actually a provision for seeking some sort of limited review regarding the Department of Public Safety’s decision.”

Shirvell’s initial ban from campus came amid a controversy surrounding Shirvell’s blog, “Chris Armstrong Watch,” and several appearances Shirvell made at campus events that Armstrong attended, including an MSA meeting where Shirvell called on Armstrong to resign as MSA president.

Armstrong had sought a personal protection order against Shirvell last month but dropped his petition on Oct. 28, after attorneys for Armstrong and Shirvell reportedly reached a resolution outside of court.

Armstrong has since retained Attorney Deborah Gordon and the two have filed complaints with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, seeking an investigation into Shirvell’s actions and necessary disciplinary actions, up to and including disbarment.