Judge James "Jay" Taylor
ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Sessions Court Judge James “Jay” Taylor has invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination in his written response to four theft related charges made last month by the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary.
Last month the Court of the Judiciary (COJ), which polices judges in Tennessee, placed five charges against Taylor, four of which related to alleged theft, and one for failure to file a response to those allegations.
That fifth charge was later dismissed, and on Friday Taylor filed his response to the four remaining charges with the state Appellate Court Clerk’s office in Nashville.
The COJ charges are civil, and not criminal, although now that Taylor has filed his response a public trial will be scheduled in Rogersville within 60 days assuming a continuance isn’t ordered.
The COJ has the authority to impose penalties such as a suspension with pay or recommending dismissal to the Tennessee General Assembly; but the COJ cannot suspend without pay or dismiss a judge.
COJ count one against Taylor alleges that on or about June 20, 2008, he received in excess of $9,000 from a client, Julie Rasmussen, which he told her would be invested by him and which was allegedly “converted by James Taylor to his own use.”
Rasmussen, a former employee of Taylor, has also filed a federal lawsuit against Taylor claiming that he stole nearly $10,000, as well as alleging sexual harassment.
The second COJ charge alleges that while he served as juvenile court judge, and later as sessions judge, he filed numerous claims with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts claiming payment for services as appointed counsel in cases that he performed no legal service.
The third COJ charge alleges that while serving as juvenile court judge Taylor collected funds as a result of representing to the public that he was organizing a “Citizens Heritage Display” that he said would be displayed in the lobby of the new Hawkins County Justice Center. Instead Taylor allegedly “converted the funds collected for his own use.”
The fourth COJ charge alleges Taylor acted as the judge in matters that came before the Hawkins County Sessions Court and then filed claims for the same cases with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts claiming payment for services as appointed counsel in those cases.
In his official response to those charges Taylor states he “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.”
Under the heading “General Defense” Taylor further 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.”