The Judge Takes The Fifth: Tennessee Judge Invokes His Right To Remain Silent Over Allegations That He Stole Money From Ten Commandments Display

We previously read about the ethics charges and lawsuits leveled against Hawkins County (Tenn.) Judge James Taylor for various violations, including stealing money that he raised for a “Citizens Heritage Display” with the Ten Commandments to be placed in the lobby of the Hawkins County Justice Center. While Taylor announced he would still run for reelection and assured people that his name would be cleared, he has now asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in his answer to accusations of theft and misconduct in the judicial ethics investigation.


In addition to an ongoing criminal investigation, Taylor is being sued by former clients alleging misappropriation of money from clients and sexual harassment. While he signed the filings as opposed to private counsel, Taylor’s answer states “Taylor has been advised by counsel to assert and invoke, and herby [sic] does respectfully assert and invoke, his privilege against self-incrimination.”

It presents a difficult problem. While people are clearly entitled to take the Fifth, judges are expected to answer ethics complaints fully as a condition for continuing on the bench. Accordingly, a judge who takes the Fifth in an ethics proceeding should in most cases resign in my view.

While people can take the Fifth in civil cases, “the Fifth Amendment does not forbid adverse inferences against parties to civil actions when they refuse to testify in response to probative evidence offered against them,” Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U.S. 308, 318 (1976), the Court has added that the “‘[f]ailure to contest an assertion…is considered evidence of acquiescence…if it would have been natural under the circumstances to object to the assertion in question.’” Id. (quoting United States v. Hale, 422 U.S. 171, 176 (1975)).

In this matter, Taylor is accused of stealing $9,000 from a client, billed the state for services that he never performed, and kept money raised to pay for the “Citizen’s Heritage Display.” In 2011, the Court of the Judiciary publicly reprimanded Taylor for lobbying the Hawkins County Commission for approval of the display as well as participating in fundraising efforts for the project.

Here is the complaint: james_taylor_-_formal_charges_1-24-12

Source: KnoxNewsas first seen on ABA Journal

24 thoughts on “The Judge Takes The Fifth: Tennessee Judge Invokes His Right To Remain Silent Over Allegations That He Stole Money From Ten Commandments Display”

  1. Another story about a judge with poor judgment:

    TPMMuckraker
    Federal Judge Sent Joke Email Implying Obama’s Mother Had Sex With Dog
    Ryan J. Reilly February 29, 2012
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/02/bush_nominated_federal_judge_sent_joke_email_implying_obamas_mother_had_sex_with_dog.php?ref=fpa

    Excerpt:
    Montana Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, a George W. Bush nominee, admitted on Wednesday that he forwarded a racially-charged email implying that President Barack Obama might have been the product of a sexual encounter between his mother and a dog.

    “A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’” the email forwarded from Cebull’s official court email address on Feb. 20 read, according to the Great Falls Tribune. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”

    The federal judge’s email called the joke “a bit touching” and said he wanted all of his friends to feel what he felt when he read the email. “Hope it touches your heart like it did mine,” he wrote.

    Cebull told the newspaper that his brother sent him the racist email which he then forwarded to six “old buddies” and acquaintances. A forwarded version of the email eventually made its way to a reporter at the Great Falls Tribune.

  2. if this judge gig doesn’t work out for him i hear there’s an opening as a professional wrestler.

  3. I am sure Judge Taylor is a devoted Christian Republican who opposes Darwin evolution!

  4. It just goes to show that good looks can hide bad dispositions. I agree with JT that he should resign. Judges should be held to a higher standard.

  5. Why is a justice center displaying the “Ten Commandments” anyway ?

    Hello, first amendment anyone ?

  6. “While Taylor announced he would still run for reelection and assured people that his name would be cleared,”

    Why do they all say that? It never works out that way.

  7. Speaking or taking the fifth, (no, not the bottle)

    I wonder when the Pentagon will? The amendment, the bottle is dry.

    (Don’t tell me they can’t; isn’t the Pentagon a person, when Walmart is?)

    The Ret. Brigadier Gen. taking the press conf. on revelations in a released report on processing and disposition of 9/11 remains.—–said in answer to a question (paraphrase) that: “….that’s just anecdotal, you know. We were given this info when we interviewed those involved.—–”

    He was using the strongest denial method they taught him at the AWC or the C&GS school. Of course one can say that about many things:
    Like JFK shooting was anecdotal, as for that matter the whole of 9/11 too.

    Strong defense, only the fifth remains. Shall we drink it?

  8. How about this judge from Georgia?

    *****
    N. Georgia judge investigated for brandishing gun in court
    By Bill Rankin
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/n-georgia-judge-investigated-1362511.html

    Excerpt:
    A North Georgia judge is being investigated for pulling out a handgun during a hearing this week as a woman testified about being an assault victim.

    Lumpkin County Superior Court Judge David E. Barrett pulled out his pistol Wednesday not in anger, but out of frustration and to make “a poor rhetorical point,” District Attorney Jeff Langley said Saturday. Langley, who was in the courtroom when it happened, said the Judicial Qualifications Commission has launched an investigation of the judge.

    “It was totally inappropriate conduct for a courtroom,” Langley said. The district attorney said that he approached the bench after Barrett pulled out his gun and told the judge to put his pistol away. The judge did so and the hearing continued, Langley said.

    Barrett, chief judge of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, did not immediately respond to emails or to phone calls left at his office Saturday. Under Georgia law, judges are allowed to carry a concealed weapon on the bench, but it is a crime to point a pistol at another person when there is no justification to do so.

  9. He should take the Ninth Amendment right of privacy. There is not much case law on who can be exempted as there is with the Fifth, as when they give immunity. If he has ever presided over a death sentence case and sentenced someone to death then he is up shit creek because he has violated the Sixth Commandment which is something he sponsored and thence stole from. He looks to be a crook from his photo.

  10. I agree with the professor, in that this judge should be compelled to resign….if and when a judge takes the 5th for possible criminal complaints against them….then something is a muck….now if this was ronnie regean….then I don’t recall is an appropriate response….

  11. “…raised for a “Citizens Heritage Display” with the Ten Commandments to be placed in the lobby of the Hawkins County Justice Center.”

    WTF??!!

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