ROGERSVILLE - Although it is not uncommon to hear it in court, it is very unusual for the judge to be the one who invokes his Fifth Amendment right. Hawkins County General Sessions Court Judge James "Jay" Taylor has cited his right against "self-incrimination" in his answer to the most recent "Formal Charges" from the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary. "Based upon these allegations, Judge Taylor has been advised by counsel to assert and invoke, and hereby does respectfully assert and invoke, his privilege against self-incrimination guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and under Article I, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution, and therefore, Judge Taylor must respectfully decline to make further response at this time than is contained herein this pleading," Taylor's signed three-page response, filed February 24 in Nashville, states. On January 24 the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary filed Formal Charges that claimed: as an attorney and while serving as Juvenile Court Judge Taylor converted for his own use money from a client and funds collected for a Heritage Display. He is also charged with questionable billing practices. A charge citing his lack of response was dropped in an amendment file January 27 by Timothy Discenza, Disciplinary Counsel for the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary. Taylor's response states "the charges fail to state a judicial offense for which Judge Taylor might be disciplined under the Tennessee Code of Judicial Conduct or the Tennessee Code" and claims the "Formal Charges and Amended Complaint/Formal Charges should be dismissed and denied." Taylor's response also claims that Discenza be "estopped from charging Judge Taylor with alleged judicial offenses for which he merely followed or adhered to Tennessee law, including case law, statutory law, rules, regulations, and judicial ethics opinions." The Tennessee Court of the Judiciary does not take the place of criminal investigations or charges, but was created by the legislature to "provide an orderly and efficient method for making inquiry" into matters including: • The physical, mental and/or moral fitness of any Tennessee judge; • Whether the judge committed judicial misconduct; and • Whether the judge committed any act calculated to reflect unfavorably upon the judiciary of the state. Under state law, only the General Assembly can vote to remove a judge from office. According to the COJ Charges, "on or about June 30, 2008, James Taylor, while holding a position as a part time Juvenile Court Judge in Hawkins County, Tennessee, received in excess of $9,000 from a client, Julie Rasmussen, which he indicated to her would be invested by him, for her and on her behalf, which was converted by James Taylor to his own use." Rasmussen's theft allegation is also repeated in a federal lawsuit the woman filed. In his response, Taylor countered the money was taken "to repay him for monies previously loaned to her." The charges also state that as a Juvenile Court Judge he "collected funds as a result of representing to the public that he was organizing a Citizens' Heritage Display, a monument that he represented would be displayed in the local courthouse, and that James Taylor converted the funds collected to his own use." It is noted that "while a Juvenile Court Judge, and later while a General Sessions Judge of Hawkins County, Tennessee filed numerous claims with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, claiming payment for services as appointed counsel in cases in which James Taylor performed no legal services." Taylor is also charged with "claiming payment for services as appointed counsel in those cases" from the Tennessee Administrative Office of the courts while Taylor was sitting as the General Sessions Judge of Hawkins County, Tennessee.
Subscribe to The Rogersville Review by clicking SUBSCRIBE.
Sign up for Breaking News emails from The Rogersville Review by clicking EMAIL ALERTS and inputting
your email address next to "Add Me" near the top right corner.