The Utah Supreme Court reviewed a disciplinary case against Taylorsville Justice Court Judge Michael Kwan for misconduct. The Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC) suspended Kwan for six months without pay, something he argued was unfair disciplinary action.
Kwan was suspended for disparaging President Donald Trump on social media and in his courtroom during court proceedings.
“Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover,” Kwan said in a social media post. “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.”
He also told a defendant he would pay off their overdue court fines with his tax rebate, saying that Trump will only give tax cuts to the wealthy.
"Judge Michael Kwan acknowledges that he violated the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct when he made seemingly shirty and politically charged comments to a defendant in his courtroom. Judge Kwan similarly admits that he violated the code of conduct when he lost his temper with a court's staff and improperly uses his judicial authority to seek that individual's removal from the premises. Moreover, in response to questions at oral argument, Judge Kwan conceded that an online post critical of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump also violated the code of conduct," the Utah Supreme Court ruled.
Although Kwan argued his speech was protected under the First Amendment the JCC said it doesn't apply to a a JCC rule being challenged in a disciplinary proceeding.
“Fulfillment of judicial duties does not come without personal sacrifice of some opportunities and privileges available to the public at large,” the Court ruled in its opinion. “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.”
According to the Daily Caller, the JCC and the Utah Bar Association have brought up disciplinary actions against Kwan before for political commentary and abusing judicial authority to impose extremely lenient and/or harsh fines.