Utah Supreme Court suspends judge for anti-Trump jokes

The court ruled that Judge Michael Kwan, who served for 20 years in Taylorsville, violated Utah's judicial code of conduct by mocking President Donald Trump from 2016 to 2017. Photo courtesy Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission

May 25 (UPI) — The Utah Supreme Court suspended a judge for six months without pay after he consistently criticized President Donald Trump online and during proceedings.

The court ruled that Judge Michael Kwan, who served for 20 years in Taylorsville, violated Utah’s judicial code of conduct, according to court documents.

During their ruling, the Utah Supreme Court shared several instances of criticism from Kwan about Trump.

A few days after the 2016 presidential election, Kwan wrote on Facebook, “Think I’ll go to the shelter to adopt a cat before the President-Elect grabs them all,” a reference to the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump was heard bragging about grabbing women’s crotches.

Nearly a month later, Kwan wrote, “welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover.”

In January 2017, Kwan appeared to tell a defendant who needed to pay a court fine, not to hold out hope for a large tax return with Trump in office.

“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,”

“It is an immutable and universal rule that judges are not as funny as they think they are. If someone laughs at a judge’s joke, there is a decent chance that the laughter was dictated by the courtroom’s power dynamic and not by a genuine belief that the joke was funny,” Utah Supreme Court Justice John Pearce wrote.

Not all of the criticisms of Kwan’s behavior involved Trump takedowns.

A month later, witnesses say Kwan loudly confronted court clerk after learning an employee under his supervision had been promoted without his knowledge.

In his own defense, Kwan called his quips “constitutionally protected speech” and “social commentary or humor.”

While the Kwan’s criticisms of Trump came between 2016 and 2017, he has a history of making other questionable comments.

In 2005, Kwan was also reprimanded by the state for making other inappropriate remarks.

In comparing an attorney’s argument to former President Bill Clinton, he said it was, “the same as President Clinton arguing that when asked if he ‘is’ having sex outside of marriage, his answer would be on what the definition of ‘is’ is,” according to court documents.

“Repeated instances of misconduct are serious matters, which may render a judge not only subject to suspension, but also to removal from office,” Pearce wrote. “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.”


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