Putnam County judge suspended for remainder of term

Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Young was suspended for 30 days.
Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Young was suspended for 30 days.(Tennessee State Courts)
Published: Jul. 31, 2022 at 12:45 PM EDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - A Putnam County judge has been suspended for the remainder of his term by the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct.

The board issued an order that detailed several complaints against Circuit Court Judge Jonathan Young, of Cookeville, who serves the 13th Judicial District, including sexual misconduct with a woman who was a party in an adoption case in his court.

Young is suspended for 30 days beginning on Aug. 2 through Aug. 31. Young’s term as judge ends on Aug. 31 after his defeat in the district’s primary election.

On June 7, Chelsey and Michael Hoover filed separate complaints claiming Young started inappropriate communications. Young allegedly started conversations with Chelsey Hoover that were flirtatious and sexual before, during and after she and Michael Hoover were parties in an adoption case his court heard on March 29.

According to a report, Chelsey Hoover claimed Young requested explicit pictures from her and that they had met on several occasions outside of the court, including at a hotel in Cookeville around April 28, where they had sex. Young allegedly suggested she use an app on her phone that would automatically delete their electronic communications.

When Chelsey Hoover allegedly met Young at the hotel, she presented him with legal documents in an unrelated custody matter he had pending in another court in his judicial district. Young allegedly provided Chelsey Hoover advice about her case, including how to get the judge handing it disqualifies from hearing the matter. He also was accused of advising her on how to replace her attorney.

Michael Hoover alleged that Young failed to disclose any of the information to him before or during the adoption matter. When he learned that Young had allegedly solicited intimate photos from his wife and was seeing her outside of court, including engaging in a physical relationship, he claimed he felt betrayed by the court and confronted Young.

Despite his actions, Young allegedly failed to excuse himself from the Hoovers’ adoption case. Instead, he entered an order on April 8 granting the adoption where Michael adopted one of Chelsey’s children.

According to a report, Young’s actions left safety and security issues for law enforcement officials and court employees. At one point court staff was sent home and an order was entered by the Presiding Judge of the district on May 27, which closed Young’s court for that day.

This was not the first time Young had been accused of sexual misconduct. On Oct. 5, 2020, Young was publicly reprimanded for having inappropriate social media communications with several women, including a legal professional in his district. He was also suspended for 30 days.

In addition to his alleged sexual misconduct, Young was also accused of making public comments about a pending case.

On April 27, attorney Ronald Range Jr. filed a complaint against Young on behalf of Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Endo Health Solutions, Inc.

Range claimed Young participated in interviews with media outlets and made several social media posts while Clay County, et. al. v. Purdue Pharma L.P. was pending in his court.

Young was accused of positioning himself “publicly as an interested community advocate and voice for change in the larger societal controversy over opioids” rather than “an impartial adjudicator presiding over the litigation.”

The court found that Young’s removal from the case was necessary to protect public confidence in the judiciary. However, instead of heading the Court of Appeal’s conclusions regarding his extra-judicial activities, Young allegedly continued his public media campaign by conducting additional interviews about the pending case.

According to the complaint, this conduct risked tainting the jury pool.

During one of his interviews, Young allegedly told a newspaper on April 20, on behalf of the case, that the plaintiffs were going to appeal to the Supreme Court and that he had no final decision. However, no appeal was filed and the decision to remove Young from the case was the final decision.

In a letter dated May 16, Young submitted a response to the complaint as part of the Board’s preliminary investigation. Rather than take responsibility for his actions that led to the remove from the case, Young allegedly blamed the parties and their lawyers and attempted to portray himself as the victim, according to a report. Young allegedly asserted, without citing any legal authority, that as a judge he essentially enjoyed a constitutional right to say and do as he pleased in both the media and on social media platforms concerning cases assigned to his court.

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