Blog Wars

Andrew Shirvell (far right) and Chris Armstrong

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?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Shirvell Won’t Shrivel: Former Michigan Prosecutor Turns It Around on Chris Armstrong”

Former Michigan prosecutor Andrew Shirvell might be gone from the Michigan attorney general’s office, but he has not been forgotten. Shirvell, an outspoken opponent of homosexuality, has just been hit with a lawsuit — by Chris Armstrong, the ex-president of the University of Michigan student body.

Armstrong is suing Shirvell in Michigan state court for stalking, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and abuse of process. His lawsuit seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages and injunctive relief (to enjoin Shirvell from, well, being such a creep).

As you may recall, Shirvell seemed obsessed with the young, beauteous, and openly gay Armstrong, devoting an entire blog to criticism of Armstrong and following Armstrong around, day and night. As explained by Armstrong’s lawyer, Deborah Gordon, Shirvell demonstrated a “bizarre personal obsession” with Armstrong, reflected in numerous blog and Facebook postings in which Shirvell asserted that Armstrong was advancing a “radical homosexual agenda.” [FN1]

Let’s take a closer look at the complaint….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Lawsuit of the Day: Chris Armstrong v. Andrew Shirvell”

Andrew Shirvell, now a FORMER Michigan AAG.

We mentioned this briefly last night in an update appended to Non-Sequiturs, but it’s big enough news that it merits more coverage. Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell — whom we’ve covered extensively, for his blogging campaign against Chris Armstrong, the openly gay (and ridiculously handsome) student body president at the University of Michigan — has been fired by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.

(A commenter had this punny response to the news: “Gosh. Is that the last time Andrew Shirvell will run into trouble with Cox?”)

I previously wondered whether Shirvell deserved to be fired. As AG Cox noted in explaining why he didn’t fire Shirvell immediately, government lawyers have free speech rights too.

Most of you weren’t as concerned. In an Above the Law reader poll last month, over 80 percent of respondents said that Cox should fire Shirvell.

And so he has. According to the Michigan AG’s office, Shirvell went well beyond the bounds of permissible free speech….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Andrew Shirvell Is Out at the Michigan AG’s Office”


Michigan AAG Andrew Shirvell

Today brings some updates in the ongoing saga of Andrew Shirvell, the Michigan assistant attorney general who writes Chris Armstrong Watch, a blog devoted to attacking the openly gay student body president of the University of Michigan. We’ve covered the story extensively (see here and here).

First, Shirvell’s blog is now “open to invited readers only” — i.e., it’s password-protected.

Second, Chris Armstrong is seeking a restraining order against Shirvell (who has shown up at events attended by Armstrong and also at Armstrong’s home). Judge Nancy Francis declined to issue an immediate restraining order but scheduled a hearing for next week. (Shirvell has already been banned from the Michigan campus, despite his status as a UM alumnus.)

Third, and most notably, Shirvell has taken a personal leave from the Michigan AG’s office. This announcement was made today by a spokesperson for Attorney General Mike Cox — who also mentioned that Shirvell will be the subject of a disciplinary hearing when he returns to work.

The news that Shirvell is out of the Michigan AG’s office, at least temporarily, will be welcome to many. But some observers, including our own Elie Mystal, have called for more: namely, Shirvell’s firing.

Let’s pause and consider: Would it be that easy to fire Andrew Shirvell? As a former government lawyer who once blogged about judges while appearing before them as a prosecutor, I have some thoughts on this….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Michigan Assistant AG Andrew Shirvell Goes On Leave
And: Should AG Mike Cox Fire Shirvell?

Earlier this week, Conor Friedersdorf, writing for The Atlantic, poured a big bottle of haterade all over the legal profession. More specifically, he criticized the way “Ivy League” lawyers are recruited, and the “palpable sense of entitlement” they exhibit even when they don’t take Biglaw bucks and instead work for the government. Here’s the set up:

The details of how elite law and business consulting firms recruit astonish me every time I hear them. Even getting an interview often requires attending an Ivy League professional school or a very few top tier equivalents. Folks who succeed in that round are invited to spend a summer working at the firm, the most sane aspect of the process.

But subsequently, they participate in sell events where they’re plied with food and alcohol in the most lavish settings imaginable: five star resort hotels, fine cigar bars, the priciest restaurants.

And here’s the money shot, one that is careening around the legal blogosphere like Billy Joel trying to get back from the Hamptons before the hurricane hits:

Though it isn’t defensible, it is unsurprising that a lot of people who eschew offers to work at these firms, favoring public sector work instead, imagine that they are making an enormous personal sacrifice by taking government work. The palpable sense of entitlement some of these public sector folks exude is owed partly to how few of “our best and brightest” do eschew the big firm route (due partly to increasing debt levels among today’s graduates, no doubt).

Really? You want to do this now? You want to talk smack about the people on the bottom rung of this totem pole, while willfully ignoring the clients, partners, law schools, and state governments that generate huge sums of wealth off the backs of the palpably entitled?

Fine. Let me take off my glasses, and we’ll step outside…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “The World Hates Lawyers: Mainstream Media Manages to Criticize Biglaw Summers AND Public Sector Lawyers in the Same Breath”

Gawker posed a very inflammatory question yesterday: How Did the Owner of a Barely-Legal Teen Gossip Blog Get Into a Prestigious Law School?

The law school in question is USC Gould School of Law, currently ranked #18. Gawker commenters wondered whether this was a misuse of the term “prestigious.”

The gossip blog owner in question is Christopher Stone, 31, who runs Sticky Drama and Sticky Noodz, dedicated to teenage gossip and teens’ nude photos, respectively. It’s a successful blog business model, as you can well imagine. The Sticky Drama site is currently down, but you can check out its tumblr. We sacrificed a few IQ points by looking it over: It’s a mish-mash of cute boys, half-naked girls, and screenshots of Facebook conversations about rape. The site most recently gained notoriety for launching 11-year-old Jessi Slaughter into the public eye, resulting in a cyberbullying frenzy.

Gawker describes it like this:

StickyDrama and its sister porn site, Sticky-n00dz, are two of the worst sites on the Internet, built on exploiting teens and tweens’ insecurities and then publicly humiliating them. Stickydrama is a crowd-sourced gossip blog that chronicles the lives of “E-celebs.” Sticky-n00dz is similar, but focused on nude pictures. E-celebs are kind of like regular, “In Real Life” celebrities, except their fame exists solely on social-networking sites like Myspace, Twitter, and the live webcam community Stickam.com, from which StickyDrama gets its name.

When Gawker is saying you’re a cesspool….

After seeing Stone tweet about law school — “lol @ all the Efagz pissed that I got into law school–ALL that I applied to. And my entire application was based on StickyDrama. So, nyah!” — Adrian Chen at Gawker asked his Twitter followers where Stone was going. Chen then wrote:

Attention, USC law! This man spends his free time harassing teenagers and videotaping live rapes… Admissions officers at the University of Southern California’s Gould School of Law just admitted him to their 18th-ranked program earlier this week.

We reached out to USC. They say Gawker got it wrong…

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Christopher Stone Is Not Actually a Trojan Man”

flame war.jpgInternet message boards tend to be rough-and-tumble places. Enter at your own risk. (This includes Above the Law comments — if you don’t like them, don’t read them.)
There may be employment risks for posters at Top Law Schools (“TLS”), a message board for gunners planning to apply to law school. This is one of those places online where people talk about what to bring to the LSAT and trumpet their acceptances by various law schools. In other words, it’s the place where future law school list-serv psychos cut their teeth.
Yesterday, Top Law Schools claimed that test prep company TestMasters is discriminating against its readers. A TLS moderator wrote a post alleging that a reader’s application to work as an LSAT instructor for TestMasters was rejected based on his being a frequent TLS poster. The moderator posted the rejection email the reader received (we’ve replaced the name of the TestMasters director with a pseudonym):

Dear “John”,
We have decided to cancel your interview and reject your application to work for us as an LSAT instructor. Applications are currently at an all-time high, and we do not have the time or resources to interview TTT candidates whose social lives consist of making thousands of posts on internet discussion boards. TestMasters only hires people who are cool, and unfortunately you do not meet that requirement.
Best regards,
“I-Wish-I-Worked-For-Kaplan”
Programs Director
TestMasters

When we got the first of many emails about this, we thought, “A programs director who actually uses the term ‘TTT’? ‘People who are cool’? C’mon. This is fake.”
But TestMasters is not disowning the email, and it appears that “I-Wish-I-Worked-For-Kaplan” actually waded into the cesspool to defend herself.

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ABA Journal Blawg 100 2009 badge.jpgThe legal blogs selected for the ABA Journal Blawg 100 have been announced. In case you’re not familiar with this fine tradition, now in its third year, the Blawg 100 are “the 100 best Web sites by lawyers, for lawyers, as chosen by the editors of the ABA Journal.”
The 100 websites are divided into various categories, and then readers vote for their favorite in each. This year, Above the Law is defending its title in the News category. Although we are up against some excellent competition — check out all the nominees here — we hope you’ll do us the honor of voting for us.
This year the voting process is a little different. You need to be a registered user of the ABA Journal website in order to vote. Registering is free and easy; you can do so here. Voting ends on December 31, 2009.
We have many friends in the legal blogosphere, so we will refrain from making endorsements in the other categories. If you’re looking for voting guidance, though, feel free to check out Marc Randazza’s picks over at The Legal Satyricon.
Congratulations to all the Blawg 100, and good luck to everyone in the reader voting. May the best blog(s) win!
ABA Journal Blawg 100 – News [ABA Journal]
ABA Journal Blawg 100 – All Categories [ABA Journal]

Story competition.JPGThe inherent tension between the old media and the new media boiled over the weekend when Ian Shapira wrote an insightful article for the Washington Post about how Gawker appropriated one of his stories. For people concerned with the so-called “death of journalism,” it is a must read. It is a fairly accurate description of what happens when bloggers repackage stories.
Yesterday, Gawker fired back at the Washington Post. Gabriel Snyder explained how bloggers add original commentary, humor, and sometimes insight. It’s one of the reasons readers keep coming back.
Today, our own Kashmir Hill entered the fray. She points out that some blogs (ahem) actually report and break news, and that news is repackaged by mainstream media sources all the time, often without sufficient attribution or original insight. Over on True/Slant, Kash writes about what happened to her popular story about Fordham’s privacy dossier on Justice Scalia:

I’m a struggling blogger making very little money. I would have been happy to write that story for the New York Times on a freelance basis and get paid for it. (As Washingtonian Magazine invited me to do for its June issue.)
But that’s not how these things usually work. As journalists — the traditional ones and the “new” ones/bloggers — we get stories out into the world, and then they bounce around and gather steam and get read. It’s exciting!
I’m happy my story was covered, regurgitated and repackaged. It’s an important story about a topic -privacy- that I am passionate about.

Hear, hear. The old media simply doesn’t have a monopoly on original reporting anymore.
In case you are interested, Above the Law has a very consistent policy that we follow when it comes to attribution. Let’s discuss it after the jump, and you can weigh in with your thoughts.

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frumpy hls parody.jpgOver at f/k/a, David Giacalone wonders why few people have taken a stand on Harvey Silverglate’s outrageous contention that the “Harvard Factor” has somehow killed satire in the legal profession.
Stand at my wall and start screaming “Hektor,” why don’t you?
Professor Silverglate reminds me of the guy, Dr. Pritchard I believe, who wrote the poetry textbook in Dead Poets Society. He tries to make objective the subjective art of “comedy,” despite the fact that he is not funny.
Silverglate is annoyed that so many people reacted poorly to the New Yorker cover of Barack Obama dressed up in so-called “muslin” attire. His reasoning for the backlash over the cover is that “elites” — like Obama — have become so stifled in their thinking that they can no longer take a joke.
He specifically calls out the HLS Parody (full disclosure: I was part of the show each of my three years). He states that none of the humor approaches the frankness or “brutality” of previous incarnations.
Excuse me while I stand on my desk and shout “yawp.”
Maybe back in Silverglate’s day, all the good ‘ol boys could sit around and tell watermelon jokes with impunity. Today, at Harvard and I’d imagine most anywhere else, you can still make fun of racial and gender stereotypes, you just have to be a little bit more intelligent and creative about it. Why? Because “Gee golly, them girls sure can’t drive,” just isn’t funny anymore. It’s called progress.
More ad hominem attacks on Silverglate, after the jump.

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