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Judge suspended for criticizing President Trump

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN) – A judge in Utah has been suspended without pay after publicly criticizing President Donald Trump.

Judge Michael Kwan, a municipal judge in suburban Salt Lake City, posted criticism of the president on Facebook just days after the 2016 election.

“Think I’ll go to the shelter to adopt a cat before the President-Elect grabs them all…” he wrote, apparently referencing an “Access Hollywood” tape of a conversation between Trump and Billy Bush.

On Inauguration Day, Judge Kwan wrote about his “disdain” for the president. One month later, he posted “Welcome to the beginning of the fascist takeover.”

The jabs even made it into the courtroom. Kwan once suggested a defendant not rely on his tax refund to pay fines because the president was building a wall.

“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,” he said.

Greg Skordas, Kwan’s lawyer, argues that judges are humans too and have opinions.

“So long as that opinion doesn’t detract from their ability to judge, to handle their cases appropriately and doesn’t detract from their credibility, that they should be allowed to do that,” Skordas said.

Utah’s Supreme Court disagrees. They say Kwan’s behavior, “denigrates his reputation as an impartial, independent, dignified and courteous jurist.” They also say his postings, “continue a pattern of inappropriate political commentary.” 

Back in 2005, Judge Kwan made lewd comments in court about President Clinton’s affair. In 2015, he was president of an Asian-American political advocacy group. He resigned after a judicial commission found his involvement unethical.

He was publicly scolded in both previous cases. But now, the Supreme Court ordered a 6-month suspension without pay. Kwan’s lawyer calls it excessive.

“I think he feels like he’s been muzzled in a way that’s inappropriate,” Skordas said. “But I think he also recognizes that that’s the law and he intends to abide by it.”

Kwan doesn’t rule on national or political cases, only small claims and misdemeanors. The court ruled that doesn’t matter.

“Maybe you’re a Trump supporter and you appear in front of him, you’re going to feel like you weren’t treated fairly because this judge had bad feelings about Trump,” Former U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said. “Our system works because people have to have confidence in the system.”

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