Taylorsville Judge Michael Kwan Dies At Age 58

Jul 21, 2020, 5:41 PM | Updated: 5:52 pm
Judge Michael Kwan died at age 58. (Utah State Courts)...
Judge Michael Kwan died at age 58. (Utah State Courts)
(Utah State Courts)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Judge Michael W. Kwan, who started one of the first DUI/drug courts in the nation and was suspended without pay for six months after making critical comments about President Donald Trump, has died.

The 58-year-old judge died from natural causes with his family at his side early Tuesday morning, according to a news release from the city of Taylorsville.

“We will sincerely miss Judge Kwan and all that he brought to the court,” said Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson. “He was organized and technically savvy. He was good-humored and goodnatured. He cared profoundly about our community and strived to make it better. But most importantly, he prized justice. He was intensely focused on providing equal protection under the law for all who entered his courtroom. He was compassionate and often extended a second chance for many. Above all, his model was fairness and he eschewed bigotry and racism with every essence of his being.”

Officials said Kwan had served the Taylorsville Justice Court since 1998.

He started one of the first DUI/drug courts in the nation in 1998, according to a news release from the Utah Judicial Council. The program was honored in 2008 with the Governor’s Award for reducing drug and alcohol abuse-related crimes.

Officials also said his domestic violence program was awarded the Peace on Earth Award from the Salt Lake Area Domestic Violence Advisory Council in 2002.

Kwan served on the Board of Justice Court Justices, the Judicial Council and taught judicial education courses, officials said.

He received a law degree from Whittier College School of Law and was certified in Chinese law.

Kwan’s colleagues recalled him as a warm and caring friend.

“Judge Kwan was a beloved friend and mentor,” said Taylorsville City Attorney Tracy S. Cowdell. “The world feels a little more empty without him here. We have lost a fierce advocate who believed no one was lost and anyone could change. I will miss him dearly.”

“Judge Kwan was an honorable man with strong principles and ideas,” said public defender Doug Stowell. “He made every effort to practice his profession in a manner which recognized and respected the people whom he served. We are better for having him in our lives.”

Kwan and his family were long-time residents of Taylorsville and have been actively involved in the community on many levels.

Kwan promoted civic engagement within the Asian American community through his work with the OCA — Asian Pacific American Advocates, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

He was also the president of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, which worked to earn their ancestors proper credit during the recent celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad.

“Today, we have lost a pillar in our community,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson. “Judge Michael Kwan was a champion for social justice and racial equity. Judge Kwan worked tirelessly to elevate the contributions of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He mentored generations of young leaders who will continue his legacy for many decades to come. I offer my sincere condolences to his family.”

The Utah Supreme Court suspended Kwan last year after he criticized Trump in court and online.

In 2016 and early 2017, Kwan repeatedly posted comments and shared articles on Facebook and LinkedIn about Trump.

He served a six-month suspension without pay for violating the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct.

A substitute judge will fill in until a replacement for Kwan can be appointed.

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Taylorsville Judge Michael Kwan Dies At Age 58