When the news first came to light that Andrew Shirvell, an assistant attorney general in Michigan, had been waging a hostile, unprovoked campaign against Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan's gay student-assembly president, Shirvell's employers mostly stayed mum. Attorney General Mike Cox declined to comment except to note Shirvell's "immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office." Last night, on AC360°, Cox emphasized again that Shirvell's actions against Armstrong are extracurricular, adding that Shirvell is within his rights to be a bigot and that he'll continue to work at the attorney general's office.
Calling Shirvell a "frontline grunt assistant prosecutor" who does satisfactory work, Cox said that according to the rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court, Michigan Supreme Court, and the state's civil-service regulations, Shirvell wasn't doing anything wrong by pasting a swastika and a gay flag over a photo of Armstrong's face or calling Armstrong "Satan's representative" when he protested outside the student's house. Said Cox:
"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. He's clearly a bully ... but is that protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? Yes."
Shirvell might be within his legal rights to hate-blog and peaceful protest. But shouldn't a legal representative for the state of Michigan, especially one associated with public prosecutions, have a vested interest in fairness and justice even for people unlike himself? Or did Shirvell bring his legal training to bear to make sure his actions appear impeachable?