Freethought Today · Vol. 28 No. 3 April 2011

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

‘Nine Commandments’ judge in legal hot water

Investigators for a three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary in Nashville filed charges March 29 against Hawkins County Juvenile Court Judge James “Jay” Taylor of Rogersville.

Two of the charges relate to Taylor’s involvement in supporting a “Foundations of American Law and Government” display in the county’s Justice Center.

FFRF sent a letter of complaint to the Hawkins County Commission about the proposed display (which is still only proposed) on July 23, 2010, stating that the display was historically inaccurate and unconstitutional. Among other inaccuracies, Taylor’s version of the Ten Commandments listed only nine commandments, leaving off the prohibition of adultery.

FFRF Staff Attorney Patrick Elliott’s letter said, “Given the context, the selection of documents, and Judge Taylor’s promotion of the display, it cannot withstand scrutiny under the Lemon and endorsement tests.”

The Court of the Judiciary charges focus on Taylor’s appearance before the  County Commission in support of the display and his fundraising efforts for its construction. The panel alleges he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, which prohibits judges from using their office to advance private interests and from soliciting money. Taylor is also charged with failure to file a response with investigators that was required by law.
Separate charges relate to Taylor’s part-time position as a private attorney. On Sept. 8, 2010, the state Court of Criminal Appeals found him in contempt of court for “willfully failing to take steps to protect his client’s interests.”

Taylor was found in contempt on a similar matter in 2006. He also allegedly failed to provide a response to investigators as required by law.

Taylor’s legal troubles do not end there. He is the subject of a $3 million lawsuit by a former employee alleging that he violated her civil rights and that he made “unwelcome and unwanted” sexual advances and unlawfully fired her last year.

According to the Rogersville Review, Taylor filed an answer Feb. 15 to the complaint. He primarily denied all allegations but admitted that he and the woman “dated briefly” before he was elected judge.

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