Judge Michael Kwan: A ‘true visionary’

Local News

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC4 News) – As the public gets their chance to say goodbye to Taylorsville City Justice Court Judge Michael W. Kwan on Friday, his obituary clearly shows how much of an impact he had our not just our state, but our global communities as well.

“A true visionary” is how he is being remembered, Michael Wei Kwan, who suddenly passed away on July 21, was well known community leader and judge in the state of Utah.

Michael’s life was filled by service to Utah and national Asian Pacific American communities as a mentor and teacher, fierce advocate for justice, peace and equity, and as an example of moral leadership. Michael was a true visionary whose humility prevented him from acknowledging his personal impact on our global communities, preferring instead to acknowledge the collective work of communities he helped come together,” his obituary reads.

Kwan was born in Inglewood, California in 1962 and grew up in West Hills, California. He received his law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and was later certified in Chinese Law by the East China University of Politics and Law.

In 1994, Michael married Jennifer XiaoYing Chen and in 1996, he moved his family to Taylorsville. Even though he passed at the age of 58, Kwan’s legacy and life was filled with accomplishments.

He started his career in Utah in the healthcare field as an EMT, then as a burn technician at the University of Utah Hospital Burn Unit. Kwan’s judicial career here started after he passed the bar and began working as a Salt Lake City prosecutor. He was a Pro Tempore Judge in 3rd District Court from 1996 to 1998, and became the first Municipal Judge appointed to the Taylorsville Justice Court where he remained there until his death.

Kwan was a teacher and leader in his industry. He taught judicial and law classes at the Utah Judicial Institute, the American Bar Association, and the National Drug Court and lectured at countless educational programs across the country. He was an adjunct professor in the Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) Criminal Justice Program for more than 20 years and served as Chair to the SLCC Criminal Justice Program Advisory Committee (PAC).

“He was a valued, highly sought-after speaker, as his presentations were always well-researched, interesting, and seemingly effortless. He could truly speak about anything, at any time, and anywhere,” his obituary continues.

Kwan founded several social justice, community, and advocacy organizations and served as board member, advisor, or consultant are OCA-Utah, and several OCA chapters, Utah Minority Bar, Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs – Utah chapter, Utah Asian American Chamber of Commerce, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center-Asian Association of Utah.

Kwan received the Pillar of the Community Award in 2012 for his tireless dedication to the Asian and Pacific Islander community.

Kwan leaves behind his wife, two children, Elizabeth and Richard, one granddog, Beebo, father Fulton Kwan, (family friend Elaine Kwan and her son, Howard Kwan), sisters Deanna Lyn Kwan (Michael Evangelista), Karen Kwan (Travis Dahl) and Lisa Kwan-Golden (Jeff Golden), in-laws, nieces Meghan Kwan-Smith (Justin Layton), Shealyn Mayer (David Mayer) and Amelia Michael Kwan-Lee, nephew Brenner Kwan-Golden, grandniece Kaira Mayer, and many uncles, aunts, cousins, extended family and dear friends throughout the United States and China.

A procession will travel from MacDougall funeral home to Taylorsville City Hall on Friday, July 31. Judge Kwan’s body will then lie in state at the Taylorsville City Hall at 2600 Taylorsville Blvd. from 2:00-4:00 p.m. where the public is invited to pay their last respects.

Law enforcement has asked the public to not follow the procession in their vehicles. As required by Salt Lake County, masks are required and social distancing protocols will be followed. 

If you wish, flowers may be sent for his private service at MacDougall Funeral Home on Friday morning. Or in lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to OCA, Asian Pacific Advocates in memory of Judge Michael Kwan at www.ocanational.org/donate.

You can read Judge Michael Kwan’s full obituary at McDougal Funeral Homes website.

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