Utah judge suspended for 6 months without pay for criticizing President Trump online and in court

The Supreme Court ruled that a January 2017 exchange between judge Michael Kwan and a defendant accounted for one violation of conduct after he demeaned the defendant while commenting on Trump's tax and immigration policies


                            Utah judge suspended for 6 months without pay for criticizing President Trump online and in court

A judge in Utah who made critical comments about President Donald Trump — both online and in court — has been suspended without pay for six months. According to an opinion piece filed recently, the State Supreme Court ruled that Judge Michael Kwan violated the judicial code of conduct multiple times and hurt "the reputation of our entire judiciary," according to a report by USA Today.

Kwan has been a municipal judge in Taylorsville, Salt Lake City, since 1998 and deals with small claims, misdemeanor cases and violations of ordinances.

 In this May 7, 2019, file photo, Michael Kwan poses for a photograph in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Greg Skordas, a lawyer representing Kwan, said his client accepted that he would face due punishment but was reportedly disappointed by the severity of the penalty. Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune, Skordas likened Kwan's case to that of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. At the time, Kavanaugh staunchly denied sexual assault allegations and said Bill and Hillary Clinton along with other "left-wing opposition groups" were responsible for the smear campaign against him.

"It does strike me as troubling that one man... sexually assaults a woman in college, publicly blasts the Clintons in front of a worldwide audience and is confirmed to the United States Supreme Court," Skordas said, "while a city justice court judge outwardly supports his own Asian community, makes a joke about money being wasted on a wall in front of the six people in his courtroom and then is suspended without pay for six months."

The Supreme Court ruled that a January 2017 exchange between Kwan and a defendant accounted for one violation of conduct after he demeaned the defendant while commenting on Trump's tax and immigration policies. Court documents stated that the defendant reportedly told the judge he planned to use a tax refund to pay his penalties.

"Prayer might be the answer," Kwan said in response. "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."

U.S. President Donald Trump (R), Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh (2nd R), his wife Ashley Estes Kavanaugh and their daughters, Margaret and Liza, share a laugh after Trump announced the judge as his nominee to the United States Supreme Court during an event in the East Room of the White House July 9, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

According to the State Supreme Court, Kwan also posted comments critical of Trump on his Facebook and LinkedIn beginning in 2016. While his Facebook account was private, the court said friends could have easily shared his posts.

"Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover," Kwan wrote in February 2017. "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."

According to the American Bar Association, the Asian American was part of the eight percent of non-white judges in Utah in 2010.

In this May 25, 2010, file photo, Judge Michael Kwan talks with a defendant during drug court in Taylorsville, Utah. (Jeffrey D. Allred/The Deseret News via AP, File)

Utah's director of elections Justin Lee said Kwan chooses to keep his voter registration private — an option available to any state voter — and so his political affiliation is unknown. "Judge Kwan’s behavior denigrates his reputation as an impartial, independent, dignified, and courteous jurist who takes no advantage of the office in which he serves," Utah State Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce wrote in the opinion. 

Meanwhile, this is not the first time a city judge has been reprimanded for voicing their political opinions. In 2016, a municipal judge in Akron, Ohio, came under fire after she was spotted at a Trump rally standing behind him and holding a campaign placard.

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