The state Supreme Court concluded Judge Michael Kwan undermined public confidence
A municipal judge, who disparaged President Donald Trump during official judicial proceedings and on social media, has been given a six-month suspension without pay by The Supreme Court of Utah.
The state Supreme Court concluded that Taylorsville Justice Court Judge Michael Kwan undermined public confidence in the courts by intervening in the political process.
Utah Supreme Court Justice John Pearce wrote in an opinion upholding the sanctions against Kwan:
“Fulfillment of judicial duties does not come without personal sacrifice of some opportunities and privileges available to the public at large.”
“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.”
Formal charges against Kwan were brought by the state Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC) after he disparaged the president on social networks and even in his courtroom throughout official proceedings.
According to one of Kwan’s social media posts, he suggested that congressional Republicans were similar to the rubber-stamp parliament of Nazi Germany.
“Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover,” Kwan wrote.
“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.”
The judge also dismissed a defendant’s assertion that he would pay off overdue court fines with his tax rebate, saying that the president only grants tax cuts for the wealthy
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The JCC concluded that Kwan’s statements in court and on social media were “prejudicial to the administration of justice” and suspended the judge without pay for six months.
Kwan argued that his social media commentary is protected First Amendment speech.
But the court rejected Kwan’s argument stating that state precedent provides that judges cannot raise their first constitutional challenge to a JCC rule in a disciplinary proceeding.
Pearce did, however, seem to acknowledge that precedent is problematic and could be revisited in a future case.
According to Pearce’s opinion:
Kwan in the past has already been sanctioned by the JCC and the Utah bar association for inappropriate political commentary and misuse of judicial authority.
I include imposing jail sentences in absentia and assessing excessive fines.
The state Supreme Court even reprimanded Kwan for serving as president of a nonprofit that took policy positions and criticized candidates for public office.