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April 23, 2014

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Taylor files response

Juvenile Court Judge James "Jay" Taylor
Published: 10:32 AM, 02/23/2011 Last updated: 10:40 AM, 02/23/2011

Source: The Rogersville Review

By Bill Grubb
News Editor

ROGERSVILLE - While acknowledging they "dated briefly" several years ago, Hawkins County Juvenile Judge James "Jay" Taylor has denied virtually all allegations made in a lawsuit filed in federal court filed by a former Juvenile Court employee.
    Julie Delana Rasmussen filed the lawsuit Jan. 12, just under the one year deadline from her termination as a youth services officer. Her 13-page lawsuit claims seven counts as the "causes of action" alleging:
      From October 2006 until she was terminated Taylor violated her civil rights and that actions were because of her gender;
      That she was deprived of her right to due process under the 14th Amendment;
      That she was discriminated against in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Tennessee Handicap Act;
      That Taylor is guilty of assault and battery by making "unwelcome and unwanted" acts against the woman;
      That Taylor is guilty of "extreme and outrageous conduct and infliction of emotional distress."
      That she is the victim of wrongful termination and retaliation.  The lawsuit claims that the woman's refusal of Taylor's sexual advances and her threat to expose may have played a part in her dismissal; and
      That money was taken by Taylor, to be invested, but the money was never invested or returned.        
    The suit seeks compensatory damages of $1 million, punitive damages of $2 million, lost wages, attorney's fees and other expenses and names Taylor and Hawkins County as defendants.
    The answer, filed Feb. 15, is primarily a denial of all of Rasmussen's allegations, with Taylor's version of some events.
    While the lawsuit claims the relationship "became physical in 2003" prior to Taylor's divorce, Taylor's response says the two "dated briefly" but then discontinued their personal relationship.
    The lawsuit makes repeated claims that in 2006, after being elected judge, Taylor made inappropriate comments and engaged in behavior that constituted sexual harassment.
    The response addresses many of the claims with the phrase "the defendants deny the allegations,"which appears more than 70 times.
    The lawsuit also makes the allegation that Taylor took $10,000 from the woman to invest, an amount remaining after the settlement of a lawsuit resulting from a Jan. 22, 2004, accident involving Rasmussen.  
    Taylor's response claims the money was "to repay him for monies previously loaned to her" and that any complaints that are "inconsistent" with that version are denied, including a claim that she was fired, in part, because she asked for the money to be returned and contacted law enforcement authorities.
    "It is specifically denied that the plaintiff (Rasmussen) reported her claims to the county attorney as provided for in the county's policies.  It is further denied that the defendants received any contact from law enforcement officers with respect to the complaints,"  the answer claims.
    Taylor's answer states one defense the court should consider to the harassment complaints involves Rasmussen's failure to report an alleged harassing behavior until six months after her termination.
    "When those claims were finally raised, the county promptly investigated the matter and interviewed potential witnesses identified by the plaintiff.  However, the county did not find evidence to support the plaintiff's claims - to the contrary, several witnesses provided facts directly contradicting the plaintiff's allegations," the answer states.
    The response also notes the defendants "deny all allegations of the complaint, which were not previously admitted. denied or otherwise answered."
    The answer also argues several of the claims should be dismissed because of qualified immunity or the former employee's failure to meet statutes of limitation.
    The answer asks the court to dismiss all action or, if it proceeds, to have a jury trial. A separate motion seeks dismissal of a portion of the lawsuit related to civil rights violations and the Americans with Disabilities Act because Rasmussen has "failed to exhaust her administrative remedies."
    Rasmussen is represented by Ursula Bailey, a Knoxville attorney.  Taylor and Hawkins County are represented by Greenville-based attorney Jeffrey Ward.

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