September 30th, 2010
10:11 AM ET

Michigan attorney general defends employee's right to blog

CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox defended an assistant's constitutional right to wage an Internet campaign against an openly gay college student, even though he considers that employee a "bully."

"Here in America, we have this thing called the First Amendment, which allows people to express what they think and engage in political and social speech," Cox told Anderson Cooper on CNN's "AC 360" on Wednesday night. "He's clearly a bully ... but is that protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? Yes."

"Mr. [Andrew] Shirvell is sort of a frontline grunt assistant prosecutor in my office," Cox said. "He does satisfactory work and off-hours, he's free to engage under both our civil service rules, Michigan Supreme Court rulings and the United States Supreme Court rule."

Full story

Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Bullying • Gay & Lesbian Issues • T1
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. Gerry Gramozis

    In Michigan law, has this indivdiual, by engaging in a public smear compain, video taping the student, spying on his residency, and so forth, not broken a law? His actions certainly sound like cyberbullying, cyberstalking, harrassment, and stalking. Are these not crimes that are enforcible?

    September 30, 2010 at 10:13 pm |
  2. C Smith

    This incident is not about first amendment rights. Mr. Shrivell is stalking and harassing this college student. Why is it okay for this young man to be harassed and slandered in a world wide forum because of his sexual orientation? Would Mr Shrivell still have a job if he chose to target a student who was black or Jewish or Muslim? Why is is acceptable for a public servant to act in such a hateful and dispicable manner?

    September 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  3. Robin

    This is a matter of free speech ~ who is Cox kidding ~ this behavior is outrageous and shameful. Mr. Shirvell is a disgrace to the state of Michigan and to our society in general. It sends shivers up my spine to think of how often these type of incidents occur and we are not even made aware of by the media. Whatever happened to public officials being a standard of truth and integrity???? Keep up the good work Anderson!!!

    September 30, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  4. andy

    Agreed, bravo for staying on this and exposing not only Shirvell but Mike Cox for enabling his minion to act like this.

    Mike Cox is no better than shirvell.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  5. Kim

    Support free speech and if you need a restraining order then go get one.Shirvell is offensive and if he ends up getting smacked with an invasion of privacy lawsuit,libel or harrassment then so be it.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
  6. Cathy

    Why can't Govenor Grandholm step in and override Mike Cox? So glad I voted for Rick Snyder in the Primary.

    September 30, 2010 at 8:55 pm |
  7. Ben

    I don't believe this is protected speech under the First Amendment. As Jeffrey Toobin pointed out, the Supreme Court has found dismissal of public employees justified in some cases. If this man's 'speech' is eroding public trust in the administration of justice and impacting on the internal operations of the A-G's office, he has crossed the line. Why is Cox pretending not to know this?

    September 30, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  8. Neal S.

    The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that Freedom of Speech is not an ABSOLUTE!

    “intentional infliction of emotional distress” is a criteria for restiction of certain speech and actions............
    You can not use 1st Amendment "protections" to inflict harm onto another person... You do not have the right to infringe on the rights of another....It is only protected speech if it is general, in public, and of true public discourse...it is not a 1st amendment protection to single out one individual, to harrass, intimidate, slander, and liable, and defame, and inflict emotional or physical distress upon that person or person close to them... and all iformation/discourse must be provable and true.
    With freedoms and liberties comes RESPONSIBILITY.

    September 30, 2010 at 8:32 pm |
  9. Lawrence McKamy

    September 30th, 2010 8:16 pm ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Mr. Cox should be shown the door NOW, rather than later, and he should take Mr. Shirvell with him. It's all well and good to refer to his First Amendment rights, but a total avoidence of the rights of Mr. Shirvell's target is not only poor balancing but criminal behavior. In that Mr. Cox should be included in whatever legal process the student brings. Because Mr. Shirvell does "good work" in working hours, does not excuse his uncivil and unethical behavior outside the job. Performance evaluations are based on the total person!

    September 30, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
  10. alicenyc

    I hope the AG reads the story of the young freshman from Rutger University who killed himself after being harrassed and embarrased on the internet. Apparently this young man was gay and was bullied as well. Ag and his assistant. Michigan Residents should picket the Ag's office to have his insane assistant fired. I would love Mr. Armstrong to get an order of protection against this character who seems very unstable. He is a bomb waiting to explode..

    September 30, 2010 at 8:02 pm |
  11. Kenneth Close

    I wonder what the precedent has been when regular civil service employees put a black eye on State government.

    September 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  12. John Marsolais

    Great job with this Anderson. You didn't let the assistant AG off the hook, and this AG from Michigan is incompetent. Never been happier here in New York, to have an AG named Cuomo. He would never tolerate this kind of behavior from an assistant. Thanks for being there for that young man Anderson.

    John in Albany, NY

    September 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
  13. D Albert

    This story is absolutely unbelievable. How can the people of Michigan allow this to go on? How can Mr. Cox tolerate this behavior? This is unspeakable.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
  14. Tim Barker

    Can someone please help me understand why Shirvell is waging such a vitriol personal attack on this young man? He stated in Anderson's interview that he is waging a political campaign. What is he campaigning for/against? What is Shirvell's objective? What did this college student allegedly do that Shirvell finds so objectionable that he is willing to go to such extreme measures?

    Regardless of Mr. Shirvell's "reasons", using bullying, intimidation, harassment, and hate is completely unacceptable by anyone, especially a governmental official. And by AG Cox not taking more assertive action against Shirvell to demonstrate that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated, he becomes an accomplice to Shirvell's actions and therefore just as accountable.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  15. jvan

    I wonder what color the sky is in Mr. Cox's and Shirvell's world?

    It's a slippery slope to continue to allow this kind of behavior – will it be people with brown eyes next month?

    This is as much a question of simple moral decency which these two gentlemen fail to recognize.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  16. R. McCollough

    What a shameful thing that a grown adult thinks this kind of behavior is ok, and I mean by both Cox and his flunky. As a state employee, you have certain obligations to show impartiality to all of the citizens of the state you serve. To not only target but stalk one of the citizens of that state, shows a total disreguard for the upholding the law. This left the 1st ammendment behind long ago. He has definitely crossed the line and should be fired if not charged. Bullying should never be tolerated.

    September 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
  17. Jeff in Key West

    Please do not let this story slip between the cracks. Stay on this story until justice is done.

    It is so disgraceful that a public servant could be allowed to keep such an important position and behave like this. I’m sure there would a line for job full of respectable decent people.

    If Cox can’t find better people to represent his office, maybe he needs to go.

    September 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  18. J Montone

    Attorney General Cox must realize that his assistant is destroying his image, why doesn't he fire him?

    September 30, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  19. Frank Adler

    Through this entire discourse no one has remarked about AG Cox's responsibilities. As he stated over and over to Anderson Cooper, Shrivell's action are legimate rights under the U.S.Constitution. What AG Cox didn't tell Cooper is that the Constitution requires him (Cox) to defend Shrivell. Article VI of the Constitution makes it mandatory for all officials of Federal and State government to take the oath office swearing to defend the Constitution without any hesitation or mental reservation. It is reconfirmed in the 14th Amendment which extends those obligations to persons who no longer hold public office

    September 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
  20. Tim Wholey

    The only acceptable comment Mr. Cox makes is "I will be out of office in three months." For that I am grateful!

    September 30, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  21. Chris

    I wouldn't want them to represent me for sure and he should be terminated ASAP regardless of the First Amendment, Freedom of Speech. This is hatred and ground for termination.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  22. Ron L

    No prosecutor should be stalking and harassing a state citizen. This assistant DA should be shown the door in order to protect the state from possible civil liability...if its not to late already.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  23. H. Reynolds

    Well I'm glad Cox was at least "a bit shocked" Shirvell should be fired!!!

    September 30, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  24. Benn Wolfe

    Thank you, Anderson. I really appreciate your covering of this story.

    Thank you for not letting anyone off the hook over this. You are doing a great job. Keep it up until this is resolved.

    Thank you.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  25. Lily

    What a disgusting human being Andrew Shirvell is. Makes me sick. He should lose his job immediately. A grown man in a responsible position "bullying" a college student. There is something wrong in the head with this man. He is creepy. Please someone fire the man!!!!!

    September 30, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  26. Kimberly Marciniak

    Shirvell is an embarrassment to the state of Michigan... as a representative of the state of Michigan, Shirvell has an obligation to show dignity, good judgement, and character in and outside the office. He is clearly is not behaving in a very becoming way, or in a way that Michigan should be reflected.

    His behavior is appalling, shows lack of judgement and integrity...It also shows that Shirvell is indeed a immature and petty individual who does not know how to show personal grievances in a productive and constructive way. Shirvell's claim that his behavior and actions are justified as 'free speech' is ludicrous- There is a huge difference between free speech and harassment. His blogs are clearly harassing, hurtful, and vindictive.

    Personally when someone is behaving this irrationally... and believes they are justified to do so, it frightens me because it means they are capable of anything. Armstrong needs to get a restraining order & Shrivell needs to at least take a personal leave of absence... I'd also believe Shrivell needs some form of counseling to learn to cope with his anger in more productive ways.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  27. Robin Sterling Mikolowski

    It is clear that Andrew Shirvell has violated the civil rights of this young man. I find it difficult to understand why he is still a "civil servant" of the state of Michigan. I have called the Office of Atty. General and sent an e-mail to Michigan ACLU. I really hope that all who find this offensive, intolerable, and beyond excusable will call, as well. My call was well received. I will change my state residence to Florida where I spend half of the year if this is swept under the carpet.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:12 pm |