Former Assistant Michigan Attorney General Andrew Shirvell’s motion to seal testimony in a lawsuit issued by Chris Armstrong, former Michigan Student Assembly president, was denied last week.
Federal Judge Arthur Tarnow issued a four-page order on June 29 denying Shirvell’s request for a protective order that would have granted Shirvell a sealed deposition in Armstrong’s lawsuit. Armstrong — MSA’s first openly gay president — filed a lawsuit against Shirvell in April after he claimed in his blog “Chris Armstrong Watch” that Armstrong had a “radical homosexual agenda.”
Specifically, the judge’s report said there was “no merit” in Shirvell’s argument, and he was unable to show cause for concern if the videotaped deposition remained part of the case.
“Defendant’s failure to identify ‘specific facts’ showing ‘clearly defined and serious injury’ that would result from the discovery sought prevents the Court from exercising its discretion in granting the relief requested,” the judge wrote in his report.
Shirvell wrote in a July 2 statement to The Michigan Daily that he requested his testimony be sealed because he feared for his personal safety.
“I asked Judge Tarnow to seal my upcoming deposition because Chris Armstrong, his counsel Deborah Gordon, and Armstrong’s associates and political supporters intend to publicly disseminate the testimony elicited during my deposition in order to irreparably harm me, thereby using my deposition for purposes not directly related to the lawsuit,” Shirvell wrote.
Shirvell wrote he has received several threats and intimidating messages from supporters of Armstrong over the past ten months and is “thoroughly disappointed” the judge did not award his motion, adding that Armstrong and his associates did not accommodate his best interests.
“In the past, Armstrong has repeatedly sought media attention concerning this case in order to promote his political agenda, and Armstrong and his allies have sought to financially benefit from it — all at my expense,” Shirvell wrote.
Shirvell added that the ruling has challenged his ability to find employment after he was fired last November due to the incident.
“Armstrong and his associates have also evinced a willingness to make my life a living hell by continuing to harass me and making it impossible for me to earn a living,” he wrote.
Deborah Gordon, Armstrong’s attorney, said it is uncommon to seal depositions except in extreme cases. She added that while it is unclear why Shirvell wanted to seal the deposition, it appears he does not want anyone to hear his testimony.
“I think a clear point of his papers is that he doesn’t want anyone to see what he says in his deposition … which I don’t know why, since he says he’s telling the truth,” Gordon said. “Why wouldn’t you want someone to hear the truth?”
Gordon also refuted Shirvell’s claims that she and Armstrong intend to harm Shirvell’s reputation with the deposition, adding that Shirvell’s desire to seal the deposition appears to indicate that something in it could potentially prove to cause him “embarrassment.”
“It’s an odd statement for him to make,” Gordon said. “He’s going to be answering questions under oath, (and) he has to answer honestly — he apparently feels that his honest answers to questions are going to harm his reputation.”