Judge Suspended Anti Trump Comments

FILE - In this May 7, 2019, file photo, Michael Kwan poses for a photograph in Salt Lake City. Kwan, a longtime Utah judge who was suspended without pay for six months in 2019 for comments he made online and in court criticizing President Donald Trump that the state's supreme court determined violated the judicial code of conduct, has died. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah municipal judge known for his advocacy for Asian Americans and criticism of President Donald Trump has died.

Taylorsville Justice Court Michael Kwan, 58, was found unresponsive at his home Tuesday, said Emily Bingham, a family spokeswoman and friend.

“It was very sudden and unexpected," she said, adding that he was not sick. An autopsy has been scheduled to determine his cause of death.

Kwan was known for being an early adopter of drug courts, which favor rehabilitation over punitive measures for drug offenders and people who are caught driving drunk, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. He also advocated for Chinese Americans to receive more recognition for their contributions to the Transcontinental Railroad. Kwan was a descendant of one of Utah’s Chinese workers who built the railroad.

“We will sincerely miss Judge Kwan and all that he brought to the court,” Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson said. “Above all, his model was fairness and he eschewed bigotry and racism with every essence of his being.”

Kwan was a Taylorsville judge since 1998. He had been suspended without pay for making comments about Trump from the bench and on his personal social media accounts. He eventually returned to his position.

One of three of his sisters, state Democratic state Rep. Karen Kwan, announced her brother’s death on Twitter, the Deseret News reported.

“The Kwan family is deeply saddened by the terrible and shocking news that Michael, our son, brother, father, husband, uncle, cousin, friend and dog grandfather has passed away and left us far too soon," she said.

Kwan is survived by his wife, two children and a dog named Beebo that family members said he considered as a grandchild.

A memorial service has not yet been announced.

Taylorsville city officials said they are working with the courts to appoint his replacement.

Kwan received a law degree from Whittier College School of Law and was certified in Chinese law by the East China University of Politics and Law. He served as pro tempore judge in 3rd District Court from 1996 to 1998, before presiding over Taylorsville Justice Court.

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