The Supreme Court of Utah upheld a six-month suspension without pay for Taylorsville Justice Court Judge Michael Kwan, who disparaged President Donald Trump in social media and during official judicial proceedings.
Taylorsville Justice Court Judge Michael Kwan undermined public confidence in the courts by intervening in the political process, the state Supreme Court concluded.
“Fulfillment of judicial duties does not come without personal sacrifice of some opportunities and privileges available to the public at large,” Utah Supreme Court Justice John Pearce wrote in an opinion upholding the sanctions against Kwan. “And as a person the public entrusts to decide issues with the utmost fairness, independence, and impartiality, a judge must at times set aside the power of his or her voice.”
The state Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC) brought formal charges against Kwan after the judge disparaged the president on social networks and in his own courtroom during official proceedings. In one social media post, for example, Kwan suggested that congressional Republicans were comparable to the rubber-stamp parliament of Nazi Germany.
Judge Michael Kwan wrote on social media:
“Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover.
We need to be diligent in questioning congressional Republicans if they are going to be the American Reichstag and refuse to stand up for the Constitution, refuse to uphold their oath of office, and enable the tyrants to consolidate their power.”
On another occasion, the judge dismissed a defendant’s contention that he would pay off overdue court fines with his tax rebate’
From The Court Reporter
Defendant: And I did not call, but I plan on when I get my taxes to just pay off all my court fines, because I cannot end up in jail again for not complying.
Judge: You do realize that we have a new president, and you think we are getting any money back?
Defendant: I hope.
Judge: You hope?
Defendant: I pray and cross my fingers.
Judge: OK. Prayer might be the answer. ‘Cause, he just signed an order to start building the wall and he has no money to do that, and so if you think you are going to get taxes back this year, uh-yeah, maybe, maybe not. But don’t worry[,] there is a tax cut for the wealthy so if you make over $500,000 you’re getting a tax cut.
According to Pearce’s opinion, the JCC and the Utah bar association have sanctioned Kwan in the past for inappropriate political commentary and misuse of judicial authority, to include imposing jail sentences in absentia and assessing excessive fines.
On one occasion, the state Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Kwan for serving as president of a nonprofit that took policy positions and criticized candidates for public office.