A longtime Utah judge has been suspended without pay for six months for comments he made online and in court criticizing President Donald Trump, including a post bashing his "inability to govern and political incompetence."
Judge Michael Kwan's numerous posts on Facebook and LinkedIn in 2016-2017 criticizing Trump violated the judicial code of conduct and diminished "the reputation of our entire judiciary," wrote Utah State Supreme Court Justice John A. Pearce in an opinion posted Wednesday. His Facebook account was private, but could have been shared by friends, 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," Pearce said.
Kwan has been a justice court judge in the Salt Lake City suburb of Taylorsville since 1998. He deals with misdemeanor cases, violations of ordinances and small claims. He was first appointed by elected city officials to a six-year term and has remained in the position since by voters who decided to let him stay.
Kwan and his attorney, Greg Skordas, didn't immediately respond to phone calls and emails from The Associated Press.
Kwan argued the suspension was inappropriate and unlawfully tried to regulate his constitutionally protected speech, Pearce wrote in the opinion.
Skordas told The Salt Lake Tribune, which first reported the ruling Friday, that they are disappointed with the severity of the suspension.
It's unknown what Kwan's political affiliation is because he chooses to keep his voter registration private, an option available to any state voter, said Justin Lee, Utah Director of Elections.
Kwan's online posts about Trump started during the 2016 election.
On Trump's inauguration day, Jan. 20, 2017, he 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, refuse to uphold their oath of office and enable the tyrants to consolidate their power."
The ruling suspending Kwan also cited an interaction in court with a defendant in January 2017 in which Kwan criticized Trump after the defendant said he would use his tax return to pay fines.
"You do realize that we have a new president, and you think we are getting any money back?" Kwan said.
"I hope," the defendant said.
"You hope?" Kwan said.
"I pray and I cross my fingers," the defendant said.
"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," Kwan said. "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."
Kwan earned a law degree from the Whittier College School of Law in Costa Mesa, California, and was certified in Chinese law by the East China University of Politics and Law in 1993, according to his biography .
Taylorsville city officials agree with the punishment and expect Kwan to return to his position when his suspension ends, said city spokeswoman Kim Horiuchi.
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