Board: Lawyer with anti-gay rants committed misconduct

Staff and wire reports

Detroit — The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board said a former state lawyer committed misconduct when he hounded a gay student leader at the University of Michigan.

Andrew Shirvell was an assistant attorney general when he was fired in 2010. He had criticized Christopher Armstrong on an anti-gay blog, in Facebook posts and during visits to the Ann Arbor campus.

Shirvell said he was exercising free-speech rights. Armstrong filed a civil lawsuit against Shirvell in April 2011. A jury later awarded $4.5 million to Armstrong.

A three-member panel at the Attorney Discipline Board said Shirvell also committed misconduct with a frivolous lawsuit against Armstrong’s attorney, Deborah Gordon.

The report was filed Tuesday, months after a hearing.

Shirvell lives outside the state but still holds a Michigan law license. The case next will turn to a penalty phase.

Shirvell, a UM alumnus, had created the Chris Armstrong Watch blog, calling him “a radical homosexual activist, racist, elitist and liar.” He had cast the blog as speech protected by the First Amendment.

Armstrong, who graduated in 2011, said Shirvell contacted his friends, showed up at his public appearances and insulted his family and friends on the blog. Armstrong had offered to drop the lawsuit if if Shirvell apologized and retracted his statements.

The verdict, said Armstrong’s lawyer in 2012 after the jury award, came down to holding someone accountable for unacceptable behavior.

“It means the community is not going to stand by and watch this happen to another person,” she said.