Shirvell’s unhappy day

Timothy Kincaid

August 16th, 2012

Andrew Shirvell certainly can’t be very happy about the results of his trial. (Detroit News)

A federal court jury Thursday awarded $4.5 million to a gay former University of Michigan student body president who accused a former state attorney of stalking him, according to the lawyer.

Deborah Gordon said the jury came back with the verdict late Thursday afternoon. The civil case involved Andrew Shirvell, the former assistant attorney general fired in 2010 after he criticized Christopher Armstrong, an openly gay former University of Michigan student.

But I guess the upside is that unless Shirvell’s a trust fund baby, he has an excuse to keep in contact with Armstrong for the rest of his life. I have no idea as to Shirvell’s employment status, but I suspect that it would take him approximately 1,875 years to pay off that award.

Lucrece

August 16th, 2012

I dislike the guy deeply, but a $4.5 million award is obscene and a perversion of justice given what he actually did.

Bernie

August 17th, 2012

@Lucrece, Agreed! Perhaps, a $500k award with a permanent restraining order would be suffice.
It’s quite apparent by his interviews and his conduct within the court, that the man has issues. This actually smacks of $10Mil for a spilled cup of McDees coffee.

Smith

August 17th, 2012

LOL! Good news. The commenters above needn’t worry about an undeserved windfall. That award will certainly be reduced significantly. Armstrong will not get rich off of this affair, but the reduced award will hurt Shirvell, and that is what is intended here.

According to the Free Press, Shirvell remains unemployed. He also has pledged to appeal the case all the way to the Supreme Court and is warning that the lawsuit is part of the radical homosexual agenda to silence all Christians. Of course, if that were true, the number of such lawsuits would be greater than 1.

The Free Press also reminds us that this strange affair got started when the Alliance Defense Fund issued an “action alert” when Armstrong was about to take office as student president. If BTB wants to talk about obsessions, it is the obsession of ADF and the other Christian organizations with gay people that deserves attention. If it is bizarre for Shirvell to take such an interest in a college student, why is it any less disturbing for a national legal organization to be issuing an “action alert” over a 20-year old becoming student president at his school?

Hunter

August 17th, 2012

I hadn’t known about the ADF “action alert.” That is really kind of sick.

I almost feel sorry for the guy — he’s such a pathetic little man, but my pity is tempered by the fact that he has such a wide nasty streak. Maybe the jury should have included mandatory psychological counseling as part of the settlement.

CPT_Doom

August 17th, 2012

@Lucrece, according to the coverage at Towleroad, Armstrong sued for $25,000; it was the jury that increased the award to the number you see here, and that makes me very happy. The jury was clearly trying to send the message that Shirvell’s actions were beyond the pale.

MsRowena

August 17th, 2012

Sorry to go a bit off topic here, but someone’s started up with the McDonald’s coffee thing again. A little looking around quickly dispels the urban myths of huge medical lawsuits and greed that right wingers invariably start spouting about that case. Wikipedia has it right: “She remained in the hospital for eight days while she underwent skin grafting (from third degree burns). During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds, reducing her down to 83 pounds. Two years of medical treatment followed.” And also all the woman asked for after all this was 18,000 dollars for actual expenses, not suffering, not pain. Again, it was McDonald’s lawyers that took them down the path of litigation and jury trial and led to the settlement, just as the case discussed here. I feel so much for the poor woman who people demonize out of ignorance. People, think before you judge from ignorance. Don’t we gay people know ALL about that?

Snowman

August 17th, 2012

I followed the McDonalds case when it happened, yeah, that lady really got screwed up by such a simple thing, it sucks.

As for Shirvell, that guy is just creepy.

BJohhM

August 17th, 2012

OK, I’ve gotta weigh in on the McDonald’s coffee case comparison. The McDonalds Coffee award was ridiculous any way you look at it. The lady brought on the injury to herself. She took a hot cup of coffee (and would have probably complained if it hadn’t been hot), put it between her legs, took the top off, and started driving.

In this case, the award is not so ridiculous because Chris Armstrong didn’t do anything to bring this on himself. Shirvell instigated this, so he should be punished.

In the end though, as several commenters noted, this will be reduced, but I’m sure Shirvell will appeal. Being unemployed, he doesn’t have anything else to do. Others suggested less money, restraining orders, counseling, etc. While all of those things are probably appropriate for Shirvell (does anyone not believe he’s unbalanced), civil juries generally have only money or things of value available as remedies.

Regan DuCasse

August 17th, 2012

GREAT point, Smith1

I do remember that action alert! The ADF treated this Armstrong’s appointment as if it was some egregious and wrongfully obtained job.
They skated the line of libel, by inferring that gay people do things like that in order to further their ‘militant gay agenda’.
And only because Armstrong had been the first gay person to achieve this and had participated in some equality work.
You’d have thought he was a terrorist the way the ADF carried on about him.

That’s the problem with people so rabidly anti gay, they DO engage in slander, and libel and provoke weirdos like Shirvell.

At least the stalking didn’t take on seriously violent proportions.
But considering the recent shootings, it’s not THAT hard for an object of obsession to become a murder victim.
Which is why this reward appears to be taking the seriousness of such a possibility with the gravity it deserves. Even if the actual reward doesn’t come down to that, this is still the most important statement to make.

Jay

August 17th, 2012

Sorry. Although I suspect that the award may be drastically cut, I do NOT think that it was excessive. A jury carefully weighed the damages done by a stalker who relentlessly defamed a young man who did absolutely nothing to him. They obviously thought the damages, which were largely punitive rather than compensatory (Armstrong asked for $25,000 in compensatory damages, presumably largely to pay for the legal fees he incurred in responding to the defamation and in seeking a protective order, etc.) were justified. I do too.

I doubt that Shirvell will be able to pay them. But note that Armstrong has said that whatever he receives will go to the scholarship fund that he and his family established at the University of Michigan for students who had been bullied in high school.

Jay

August 17th, 2012

By the way, on the scholarship fund that I mentioned above that the Armstrong family established, see this blog at glbtq.com from November 2011: http://www.glbtq.com/blogs/chris_armstrong_establishes_antibullying_scholarship.html

The scholarship was announced at a celebration for the 40th anniversary for the University of Michigan’s glbt support office (now named the Spectrum Center). I am a UM graduate, so I know how important that support center has been. So does Chris Armstrong.

From glbtq.com link above:

“In announcing the new scholarship, Armstrong said that he and his parents want to make sure that other young people who have been bullied because of their sexual orientation can attend the University of Michigan.

“The scholarship is endowed with an initial donation of $100,000, and is intended for incoming freshmen.

“Armstrong’s father, Steve Armstrong, an attorney in Connecticut, said that the University community helped the entire family cope with the difficulties caused by the bullying Chris endured. He added that the scholarship will allow the Armstrong family to continue to show its gratitude.

“[We] endured the events of the past year only because of the strength and courage of our son, but we soon came to realize from where that strength and courage was coming,” Steve Armstrong said. “We saw the University respond with one powerful, resounding and unified voice to shameful attacks on Chris.”

“Chris Armstrong has described the Spectrum Center as “truly a place where out LGBT leaders can grow and develop. It connects students to the many resources that are around them and shows them the larger community they are a part of. If I had not found Spectrum my first week on campus, I would not have succeeded on campus the way I did.”

“The Spectrum Center dates its history to 1971, when, in response to pressure, including from student members of the Gay Liberation Front, the University of Michigan established the Human Sexuality Office and funded two quarter-time staff positions to be filled by a lesbian and a gay male, who were known as “Advocates.” This was the first staff office for queer students in an institution of higher learning in the United States.”

Timothy Kincaid

August 17th, 2012

His civil award goes to the center on campus? Now that is classy!

Jay

August 18th, 2012

Chris Armstrong and his family are classy people.

Jay

August 18th, 2012

One clarification: he is donating the award to the scholarship fund for bullied students that he and his parents established with an initial donation of $100,000. The award does not go directly to the Spectrum Center. Another thing: Chris’s parents remarked on how they too were affected by the bullying of their son. I hope that the jury considered that as well in coming up with the amount of the award.

Ryan

August 18th, 2012

Sorry for the off-topic, but BJohhM, you really need to watch the documentary “Hot Coffee”. What you believe happened to the elderly woman with third degree burns is not at all what happened. That her story has been distorted into this cautionary tale about frivolous lawsuits is truly a tragedy.

As for Chris Armstrong, the fact he’s decidedly not trying to cash in on this case makes him nothing short of a hero in my book.

Timothy (TRiG)

August 19th, 2012

took the top off, and started driving

You really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you? Minimal research would show you that she was a passenger in the car at the time.

TRiG.

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