Utah judge who started one of nation’s first DUI/drug courts dies

Local News

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Utah Judiciary is mourning the death of Taylorsville City Justice Court Judge Michael W. Kwan. Taylorsville City officials said Judge Kwan died at his home Tuesday morning with his wife by his side. His family said he died of natural causes.

According to Utah State Courts, Judge Kwan has served the Taylorsville Justice Court since 1998. He started one of the first DUI/Drug Courts in the nation in 1998. This program received the Governor’s Award for reducing drug and alcohol abuse and related crimes in 2008. His Domestic Violence Program was awarded the Peace on Earth Award from the Salt Lake Area Domestic Violence Advisory Council in 2002.

Judge Michael Kwan in an interview with ABC4 May 2019

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

“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.”

He 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 in 1993.

Judge Kwan previously spoke to ABC4 News about the contribution of Chinese immigrants to completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. He helped found the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association.

The late judge made national headlines when he was suspended for comments he made online and in court criticizing President Donald Trump.

Judge Kwan is the brother of Utah Representative Karen Kwan. The Kwan family said it is “deeply saddened” by the news of Judge Kwan’s death and released the following statement:

“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. We are grateful for the support offered by so many and ask that you give our family some time as we sort through details surrounding his sudden passing.”

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