A judge in Utah has been suspended without pay for six months for making political comments critical of President Donald Trump.
What's the story?
On Thursday, Utah's Supreme Court ruled that Taylorsville Justice Court Judge Michael Kwan's actions "violated various provisions of the Utah Code of Judicial Conduct."
In 2016, Kwan shared articles on Facebook and LinkedIn critical of then-candidate Trump. These comments continued after the election. "Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover," he posted on Feb. 13, 2017.
He also wrote that Americans needed 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."
In addition to posting personal comments on social media, which itself was a violation of the code of conduct, Kwan also brought his politics into the courtroom.
In 2017, Kwan was presiding over a case in which a defendant said that they were waiting for their tax return in order to pay their outstanding fines.
"You do realize we have a new president," Kwan told the defendant, according to court documents, "and you think we are getting any money back?"
When the defendant responded that they were praying that they would, Kwan quiped "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."
Kwan later said that he had been joking, but the Supreme Court noted that "[i]t 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."
Based on these and other examples, Utah's Judicial Conduct Commission charged Kwan with having conduct that was "prejudicial to the administration of justice."
Taylorsville supports the punishment, and also expects Kwan to return to the bench after his suspension, a city spokeswoman said. Judge Ron Wolthuis is expected to fill in for Kwan in the Taylorsville justice court.