By Kyle Swanson, Daily News Editor
Published October 25, 2010
A court official in the office of Washtenaw County Trial Court confirmed yesterday that a petition for a personal protection order brought by Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong against Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has been dismissed.
The official, who works in the office of Judge Nancy Francis, the judge assigned to the petition, said the case was dismissed without prejudice by the petitioner, meaning Armstrong is free to re-file a personal protection order against Shirvell in the future.
Earlier this month, Shirvell called for Francis to step down because her sister, who is a public official, had openly criticized Shirvell. Francis ultimately did not remove herself from the case.
A hearing was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. yesterday to consider the petition, after the original Oct. 4 hearing was postponed. Court officials cited a “service issue” as the reason for the re-scheduling.
The request for a personal protection order stems from the controversy surrounding Shirvell’s blog, Chris Armstrong Watch, in which Shirvell accuses Armstrong of promoting a “radical homosexual agenda” and calls Armstrong an “elitist” and “racist.”
The controversy received national media attention from media outlets like CNN, with Shirvell and his boss Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox both appearing on the network. Cox came under scrutiny for employing Shirvell on the public's dime in light of Shirvell's actions. Shirvell later took a voluntary leave of absence and has since closed off his blog from the public. Armstrong has remained relatively quiet on the issue, but did appear on Anderson Cooper 360 to discuss the situation.
In the personal protection order petition filed with the court, Armstrong wrote that Shirvell posed "a threat to my own personal safety" and that Shirvell had protested at events Armstrong attended. Armstrong added that Shirvell had called Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi's office during his summer internship to speak with his supervisor about his membership in Order of Angell — a senior honor society on campus with a controversial past.
In a statement released last night, U. Ashwin Patel — Armstrong’s attorney — explained why Armstrong dismissed his petition for a PPO.
“The petition for a personal protection order was dismissed by Chris Armstrong because he received assurance that he will no longer be contacted by Andrew Shirvell,” Patel wrote. “At this time, Chris would like to focus on his classes, finishing his senior year and his work with MSA.”
Philip Thomas, Shirvell’s attorney, said in an interview yesterday that though Armstrong has been portrayed as the victim, he believes Shirvell is the true victim of the story.
“I really believe that my client has turned out to be a victim of the liberal media,” Thomas said. “I looked at all the Anderson Cooper tapes … nobody ever said ‘Oh there should be a hearing, a determination should be made as to whether this is legitimate or not.’”
Thomas continued, “This is the United States of America, we have a right to free speech. If the standard applied in this case were to applied in our society, then President Obama could go and get a PPO against Rush Limbaugh or the Tea Party or against any of the different political action groups and that’s not what PPOs were designed or intended to protect against.”
Thomas added he didn’t feel the circumstances warranted a PPO because Armstrong said in a police report that he was feeling “somewhat harassed” by Shirvell.
“That’s not what PPO law is designed and intended to guard against, not somebody feeling somewhat harassed,” Thomas said. “It’s designed to protect people who have been threatened and who have had people show up at their work and sending them text messages and all of that.”
Thomas also said he feels the dismissal of the PPO petition, which he called a “fair outcome,” should lead to the withdrawal of the University’s trespass order against Shirvell and disciplinary hearing with the state that is scheduled for Nov. 5.
The University's Department of Public Safety issued a trespass warning for Shirvell on Sept. 14, banning him from the University’s Ann Arbor campus. Prior to the ban from campus, Shirvell protested at several events where Armstrong was in attendance, including at a Michigan Student Assembly meeting during which he called on Armstrong to resign.
DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown confirmed this morning that the trespass warning is still active. She said the ban from campus could only be lifted after a review of the warning in a meeting between DPS Chief Ken Magee and Shirvell.
Brown said Shirvell requested such a meeting shortly after the trespass warning was issued, but that it has not yet been scheduled and that Magee is currently out of town.
Thomas said yesterday that he is not happy with the lack of progress in moving the appeal forward to lift the trespass order on Shirvell. However, he said he hopes the withdrawal of the petition for PPO will help expedite the process, though he said he’s not sure it will.
“I would like to see the U of M say, ‘Hey, we’re going to dismiss this notice and we’re going to dismiss it because the application for a PPO was dismissed or we’re going to expedite it,’” Thomas said. “But while I want to see those things happen, I can’t say for sure that it is going to happen.”