Here’s a quick update on a past Lawsuit of the Day. Last month, Chris Armstrong, the openly gay ex-president of the University of Michigan student body, sued Andrew Shirvell, the former Michigan assistant attorney general and outspoken opponent of homosexuality. As you may recall, Shirvell criticized Armstrong in a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch, making allegations that according to Armstrong were false, and Shirvell also followed Armstrong around Ann Arbor. So Armstrong sued Shirvell for stalking, invasion of privacy, and defamation (among other claims).
Now Andrew Shirvell is firing back. Last week, Shirvell, proceeding pro se [FN1], moved to dismiss Chris Armstrong’s lawsuit.
Not surprisingly, Shirvell claimed in his motion to be a victim: “Plaintiff’s course of conduct was politically motivated and intended to make an example out of Defendant in order to deter others from criticizing Plaintiff’s homosexual activist agenda.” More specifically, Shirvell argued that certain counts of the Armstrong complaint fail to state claims upon which relief can be granted, that Shirvell’s criticism of Armstrong was protected by the First Amendment, and that Shirvell never had direct contact with Armstrong (e.g., by email or by phone).
In addition, Shirvell lodged some counterclaims against Armstrong. What is the basis for Shirvell suing Armstrong?
Shirvell’s counterclaim includes three counts: tortious interference with a business relationship, defamation, and invasion of privacy / false light.
The tortious interference claim seems a bit dubious. Shirvell’s essential argument is that Armstrong caused Shirvell to lose his job. But recall that Shirvell’s former boss — Mike Cox, at the time the Michigan attorney general — initially resisted calls for Shirvell’s termination, noting that his blogging against Armstrong was “after-hours and protected by the First Amendment.”
When Shirvell finally got fired, the AG’s office cited the following grounds for termination (among others): (1) working on his anti-Armstrong blog during work hours, using state computers; (2) making phone calls from work to try and get Armstrong fired from an internship with then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi [FN2]; and (3) lying to state investigators who looked into the whole Shirvell / Armstrong situation.
Did Chris Armstrong force Andrew Shirvell to do any of these things? Certainly not in any legally cognizable way.
(Perhaps one could argue that the Chris Armstrong, by getting Shirvell all hot ‘n bothered, was a “but for” cause of Shirvell engaging in this conduct. In other words, Armstrong’s handsome visage was the face that launched a thousand blog posts.)
But will it get the job done? We will keep you abreast of developments in this litigation.
[FN1] Why is Shirvell proceeding pro se? Couldn’t he find some group opposed to homosexuality to mount his legal defense?
[FN2] That might have been an amusing phone call to listen to. Did Shirvell try to get Armstrong fired from Speaker Pelosi’s office on account of Armstrong’s homosexuality? I don’t think that Nancy Pelosi, a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, would be persuaded.
Shirvell fires back, claims he’s victim of gay agenda [Detroit Free Press]
Andrew Shirvell seeks dismissal of stalking complaint, adds counterclaims to Chris Armstrong’s lawsuit [AnnArbor.com]
Armstrong v. Shirvell: Motion to Dismiss [AnnArbor.com]