LANSING (WWJ/AP) - State officials are asking a judge to reconsider a decision granting unemployment benefits to a former assistant attorney general who was fired after hounding a gay student leader at the University of Michigan.
An Ingham County judge awarded the unemployment benefits after finding that Andrew Shirvell was fired for exercising his free speech. However, the attorney general’s office says the offense was not related to the First Amendment, adding that Shirvell’s conduct disrupted public business and was not protected.
The state believes Judge Paula Manderfield’s decision is wrong, and officials are now asking her to vacate her October order and uphold the decision of the unemployment agency.
In a separate matter, a jury in August ordered Shirvell to pay $4.5 million to Chris Armstrong, who was student government president at U-M.
In filing the suit last year, Armstrong claimed Shirvell had been stalking him on campus and at his home. Armstrong’s attorney Deborah Gordon said in the complaint that Shirvell displayed a “bizarre personal obsession” with Armstrong through critical blog and Facebook posts in which he claimed Armstrong was pushing a “radical homosexual agenda.”
Then-Attorney General Mike Cox fired Shirvell in 2010 after he criticized Armstrong. Shirvell said he was acting within his First Amendment rights and that his statements were either true or protected because of Armstrong’s role as a public figure.
Armstrong had offered to drop the suit if Shirvell apologized.
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