SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has suspended a city judge for making “shirty and politically charged” comments from the bench and posting “indelicate” criticism online about President Donald Trump.
Judge Michael Kwan will serve a six-month suspension without pay for repeatedly violating the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct. In his 21 years as a Taylorsville Justice Court judge, the Judicial Conduct Commission has issued Kwan two letters of education and the Supreme Court has publicly reprimanded him twice for various violations.
One of those reprimands involved Kwan’s “crass in-court reference to sexual conduct and a former president of the United States,” according to the court. The other addressed his political activities as the head of a nonprofit organization that criticized candidates online using his name and title as a judge.
“We note that previous endeavors to help Judge Kwan correct this behavior have not been successful. And we regretfully conclude that a sanction less severe than suspension without pay will suffer the same fate as our prior attempts,” Justice John Pearce wrote in the court’s opinion.
Kwan admitted to the most recent violations but contended they warranted a lesser penalty because the sanction rested, in part, on an unlawful attempt to regulate his constitutionally protected speech.
On Inauguration Day in 2016, Kwan posted: ‘Welcome to governing. Will you dig your heels in and spend the next four years undermining our country’s reputation and standing in the world? . . . Will you continue to demonstrate your inability to govern and political incompetence?’ The next month, he posted: ‘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.’