Shirvell appears before attorney general's office for disciplinary hearing

By Stephanie Steinberg, Daily News Editor
Published November 5, 2010

A disciplinary hearing for Andrew Shirvell, the Michigan assistant attorney general who has come under fire for his blog targeting Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong, was held Friday morning, though no official ruling has been announced.

Shirvell appeared at the Office of the Michigan Attorney General in Lansing at 9 a.m. Friday morning for a disciplinary hearing regarding the controversy. The hearing will continue on Tuesday, according to John Sellek, spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.

Over the past few months, Shirvell has received national attention for his blog, Chris Armstrong Watch, on which he accuses Armstrong of having a “radical homosexual agenda” and being an “elitist.”

While driving back from Lansing on Friday, Shirvell's attorney Philip Thomas said in a phone interview that no decisions were made Friday in order to give the four-person panel time to read the roughly 100-page document he submitted concerning Shirvell’s actions.

According to Sellek, the panel consists of members of the human resources department in the attorney general's office. Sellek also said Shirvell's personal leave of absence ended Friday, but the panel placed him on administrative leave until a decision about his employment is made this week.

Thomas said he does not know if the panel or Cox will decide the status of Shirvell’s employment with the state.

“I don’t know who’s going to make the ultimate determination, but … I think these four people will make a decision, and whether they seek to have it ratified by Mr. Cox or not, I honestly do not know how that is going to work,” Thomas said.

Cox publicly defended Shirvell’s actions — claiming Shirvell’s First Amendment right to free speech protected his actions — during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper last month, though he called Shirvell’s actions immature and said they showed a lack of judgment.

According to Thomas, there are several possible outcomes of the hearing — including the dismissal of the case, the issue of a cautionary letter or reprimand, suspension with or without pay or termination from the job.

“It’s very obvious as the lawyer representing Mr. Shirvell, I would like to see the entire proceeding dismissed,” Thomas said.

Armstrong and his attorney filed a pair of complaints with the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission last week calling for an investigation into Shirvell’s actions and possible disciplinary action, including potential disbarment.

“I felt that I could not stand by and let Mr. Shirvell continue his reckless, bullying behavior,” Armstrong said in a statement at the time.

Deborah Gordon, Armstrong’s attorney, told The Michigan Daily at the time that the complaints were filed because she and Armstrong believed Shirvell had violated several ethical guidelines in the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, which every attorney in the state must agree to follow in order to practice law.

On Wednesday, the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety modified a trespass order against Shirvell. The order previously prohibited Shirvell from stepping foot on the University’s Ann Arbor campus. After the modification, Shirvell is now able to be on campus. However, he is not allowed to attend events — such as MSA meetings — where Armstrong is likely to be present and must leave any event where he sees that Armstrong is present.

Shirvell’s attorney told the Daily earlier this week that he was happy the trespass order had been modified to allow Shirvell on campus, but that he wasn’t sure DPS had the right to order Shirvell to avoid events that Armstrong may attend, saying he wasn’t sure if such an order was constitutional.