A document filed Friday has brought the ongoing legal battle between Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong and Andrew Shirvell, a former Michigan assistant attorney general, one step closer to becoming a civil lawsuit.

Deborah Gordon, Armstrong’s attorney, filed paperwork Friday with the Attorney Grievance Commission of Michigan in reply to a response filed by Shirvell’s attorney Philip Thomas last month. Thomas’s response regarded Gordon’s original request for an investigation of Shirvell.

Gordon said in an interview Saturday that she and Armstrong plan to file a civil lawsuit against Shirvell if he doesn’t publicly retract libelous statements he’s made about Armstrong. These statements were made on Shirvell’s blog Chris Armstrong Watch — on which Shirvell wrote Armstrong was encouraging a “radical homosexual agenda” as MSA president — and on national media outlets like CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.

“He’s clearly done this in all of these ways, and he needs to be disciplined,” Gordon said.

Shirvell was fired from the Attorney General’s office in November following a complaint filed by Gordon. The complaint was in response to a series of verbal and written assaults against Armstrong by Shirvell.

Former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox wrote in a statement at the time that Shirvell “was fired for conduct unbecoming a state employee.” This conduct included updating his blog about Armstrong while Shirvell was supposed to be working and not being truthful during a disciplinary hearing.

The reply Gordon filed Friday states that Shirvell stepped “beyond the well-defined limits to the items the First Amendment protects” when he posted a swastika over an image of Armstrong’s face and called him “racist” and “sexually promiscuous,” among other libelous statements, on the blog he maintained.

However, Armstrong wasn’t the only person Shirvell made anti-homosexual remarks to. An Attorney General’s office report states that Shirvell also contacted former state Rep. Leon Drolet (R–Clinton Township) via e-mail last February and used homophobic language in the message, according to a Jan. 23, 2011 article in The Michigan Daily.

Gordon said she is surprised Shirvell is standing behind his libelous comments about Armstrong, especially considering that Gordon asked the State Bar of Michigan to take away or suspend Shirvell’s law license.

“He’s still refusing to take responsibility for anything,” Gordon said. “Chris and I believe he’s hiding behind the First Amendment.”

In her written reply to the Attorney Grievance Commission, Gordon wrote that Thomas’s response doesn’t help Shirvell’s case because lawyers are held to higher standards beyond the First Amendment, Gordon said.

Thomas’s response hasn’t been made public at the request of the Attorney Grievance Commission.

When contacted by the Daily on Saturday, Thomas said he and Shirvell hadn’t received Gordon’s reply and could therefore not comment on its contents.

“I’m not in a position to respond,” Thomas said.

Gordon said the commission is supposed to serve Thomas the document soon. In addition, the commission is still considering the complaint filed by Gordon last fall. Gordon said she expects the commission’s decision on how to proceed with Shirvell by June.

Gordon and Armstrong ultimately want Shirvell to publicly retract his statements about Armstrong.

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