Judge Michael Kwan, President of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association is seen in this 2019 photo presenting an award during a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.
An outspoken Utah judge who also advocated openly on issues of importance to the Asian American community died unexpectedly this week, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.
The family of Justice Court Judge Michael Kwan found him unresponsive Tuesday morning despite no known illness at the time. An autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause of death.
News of his death spread quickly.
Kwan served on the Taylorsville Justice Court since 1998, according to Fox 13.
“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,” a family spokesperson said Tuesday in a statement. “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.”
Kwan worked tirelessly to pay tribute to the Chinese American transcontinental railroad workers as president of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association.
He successfully lead the push for changes to a racist performance of the Nutcracker by the Odyssey Dance Company in 2018.
He was also an outspoken critic of President Trump and served a six month suspension from the bench for a joke he made in court about Trump’s building of a wall on the Mexican border and the president’s tax reform policy.
“We will sincerely miss Judge Kwan and all that he brought to the court,” Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson said to Fox 13. “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.”
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