TAYLORSVILLE (ABC4 News) – “Kind, selfless, and fair.” That’s how community members described the late and honorable Judge Michael Kwan during the 22 years he served the City of Taylorsville and the State of Utah. Friday afternoon, the public paid their final respects as he “laid in state” at Taylorsville City Hall.
During the services, friends of Judge Kwan told ABC4 News he left an impression on nearly every person he met. His life encompassed a number of noble careers including EMT, prosecutor, and professor.
“That’s cause he cares about people. He was always an ally for all marginalized groups. He always put himself out on a limb for others, even if it cost him personally,” said friend Max Chang.
He added, “We owe a great sense of gratitude to his family for loaning and giving Michael to our community. We have not just big shoes to fill, but a big heart to fill. He wanted to make this world a better place than when he came in. He’s done that, he’s done his part.”
Taylorsville Court Clerk Shell Summers said she’s worked with Judge Kwan since his first year on the bench in 1998. One of his most prominent accomplishments came from starting one of the nation’s first DUI and drug court. Summer said he was one of the most caring judges she’s ever met.
“He’d tried to make people feel comfortable when coming to court. People would come in so nervous and he would just calm them down, get them through the process, and that he was fair, he’s one of the most fair judges I’ve ever met. If I was going in front of a judge, he’d be the one,” said Summers. “He protected his defendants. He was instilling that just because they’re coming to court, doesn’t mean they’re a bad person or that they will be convicted.”
Outside of the courtroom, community members said Judge Kwan dedicated himself to civil rights and improving race relations in the state. His family said one of his greatest joys was bringing attention to the major contribution of the Chinese railroad workers and organizing the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad.
He founded and led several non-profit organizations, mainly for the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities while mentoring up and coming leaders such as Anapesi Kaili.
“One of the things that I really loved when working with him is how he was able to allow for different opinions, different voices. He validated our experiences and the things we talked about. Every person was important to him. Every voice was important to him,” said Kaili, past president for OCA Utah.
Taylorsville Court Clerk Cynthia Haynes recalled one of her fondest memories of Judge Kwan was a testament to his generosity and kindness.
“My husband passed away in 2008 and I didn’t know he paid for the headstone. Things like that. He just did things randomly,” she said. “What we will miss the most, also, was his humor.”
Judge Kwan passed away in his home from natural causes on July 21st. He was 58-years-old. He leaves behind his wife and two children. On Friday, he was escorted in a procession to Taylorsville City Hall for a public viewing.
While Judge Kwan’s passing may leave a big void in the community, those who would’ve worked with him said he leaves behind a wealth of knowledge, experience, and wisdom for those will come after him.
“It’ll be empty for a while. Big shoes to fill for the next one who comes for sure,” said Laci Mechling, Taylorsville Court Clerk.
“The things that have helped through this process is thinking about everything he’s taught us and remembering we are part of that legacy and we had the wonderful opportunity to be mentored by such a wonderful person,” said Kaili. “It’s time to step up and walk through the path he’s paved for us.”