Ex-assistant AG fights disbarment for anti-gay crusade

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills – A former assistant state attorney general disbarred earlier this year over his public hostility to a gay student leader at the University of Michigan asked the state Attorney Discipline Board to reconsider the matter Wednesday, alleging misconduct by a panel that took away his license.

Andrew L. Shirvell, now living in Florida, appeared via video during a hearing at the Cooley Law School campus in Auburn Hills. Shirvell said allegations of stalking, harassment and frivolous litigation against him were decided by three attorneys who never disclosed their personal involvement with political action groups and who were each “predisposed to identify with” the student, Christopher Armstrong.

In 2010, Shirvell, while employed as an assistant attorney general, filed a blog critical of Armstong, who was then president of the UM student body. Shirvell, following a series of social media reports on Armstrong, also appeared on national TV broadcasts to criticize Armstrong’s sexual orientation.

He also showed up at locations looking for Armstrong, Shirvell said, to exercise his freedom of speech to picket and protest the student. Armstrong and his attorney viewed it as stalking and brought a civil lawsuit against Shirvell.

Shirvell lost his job in 2010 and in 2012 a federal jury awarded Armstrong $4.5 million in damages for civil rights violations, an amount later dropped to $3.5 million. This past March, the state attorney discipline board revoked his license to practice law in Michigan.

“Given that my case is one of the most politically-charged to have ever come before a hearing panel and largely driven by the vindictiveness of controversial Metro Detroit attorney Deborah Gordon, I cannot imagine a more biased panel of attorneys who sat in judgment of me,” Shirvell said in a news release this week. “With Donald Trump now in the White House, conservative Christians like me will no longer tolerate being railroaded by the liberal elite.”

Gordon said Wednesday she was “proud to have filed a grievance” against Shirvell.

“It’s humiliating and embarrassing that he ever was licensed to practice law in Michigan,” Gordon said. “I hope the attorney discipline board sticks with the original panel’s findings and not hear the matter again.”

Shirvell did not bring up Trump Wednesday but maintained the original three-person panel was stacked against him.

“They kept silent over personal activities, including public stances on homosexual rights and causes,” said Shirvell, who asked that the findings be set aside, a new panel formed and the matter reheard.

“They had a duty to disclose and since they did not, I never had an opportunity to seek disqualification of any of them,” Shirvell said.

Specifically, Shirvell alleged:

—Panel member Margaret Costello failed to disclose when she ran for judge in Wayne County in August 2000, she had been endorsed by Pride PAC, a gay rights political action committee in Michigan.

—Panel member Anthea Papista was a financial supporter of gay rights and Democratic candidates.

—Panel member Lamont Buffington was a past member of student government at the UM Law School.

Shirvell told the board Wednesday that if it agreed that just one of the members had potential bias against him, he should be permitted a rehearing.

Cynthia Bullington, an attorney for the Attorney Grievance Commission, said at the hearing that court actions involving Shirvell had established evidence of misconduct and that Shirvell violated attorney rules of professional conduct on several occasions.

Bullington said Shirvell had described Armstrong as a “gay Nazi” and called him other malicious names.

“He once said if it was the good old days and on the playground, Armstrong would be beaten,” said Bullington, adding: “Fortunately we are not in the ‘good old days.’”

“This is a frivolous motion,” Bullington told the panel. “He doesn’t have the heart, mind or soul to be a lawyer. He can’t apologize for what he has done. He continues on his course of intolerance and vindictiveness.”

The panel said it would take the request under advisement and issue a written ruling. No date was set.


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