Verdict rebutted on use of semicolon

Wednesday, December 16, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

An accused landlord has rejected a federal magistrate's finding of deliberate housing discrimination as "fraudulent and without merit."

He also reasserted the claim that he is Jack Edward; Taylor, and not the Jack Edward Taylor (without the semicolon) who was sued. The case began in 1996 when Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) investigated Mr. Taylor's rental policies at Guerley Road and Elberon Avenue properties.

HOME's white and black testers posed as prospective tenants and concluded that Mr. Taylor encouraged whites and discouraged blacks. They also said Mr. Taylor refused to rent to a tester posing as a parent with a child.

Attorney Matthew Brownfield filed HOME's suit, claiming racial and family-status discrimination.

Mr. Taylor based his defense on the way his name was typed on court documents. Other than that, he failed to respond according to U.S. District Court rules.

Magistrate Judge Timothy S. Hogan recommended a default judgment and held a hearing to test Mr. Taylor's mistaken-identity claim. Magistrate Hogan said:

Mr. Taylor admitted owning the properties involved in HOME's suit.

He "bragged" about his discriminatory conduct.

He signed letters as "Jack Taylor," "Jack E. Taylor," and "Jack Edward Taylor" as well as "Jack Edward; Taylor."

Further, a witness convinced Magistrate Hogan that the Jack Edward; Taylor defending himself in court was the "Jack Taylor" who showed her an apartment.

"The evidence makes clear that the defendant is the person named in the complaint and that this is not an instance of mistaken identity," Magistrate Hogan said.

He said Mr. Taylor's "reckless or callous indifference" to others' rights warranted $15,000 in punitive damages plus more than $11,000 compensatory damages and attorney fees.

The reason for Mr. Taylor's insistence on a semicolon in his name never became clear, Mr. Brownfield and Magistrate Hogan said on Monday.

In one filing, Mr. Taylor wrote that his "proper name is Jack Edward; Taylor" and his name "does not appear on any of the charging documents. . . . "

In another, Mr. Taylor wrote, "The Alleged Defendant has denied that Jack Edward; Taylor is, or is acquainted with, or is associated with, JACK TAYLOR whose name appears on the Court documents which have been delivered to the location of the man on the land Jack Edward; Taylor."

He continued, "Therefore, Jack Edward; Taylor now approaches the Court seeking the Court's protection until the plaintiff provides evidence that . . . the Christian man on the land, Jack Edward; Taylor is one and the same as the PERSON JACK TAYLOR." (emphasis in original) The next step is for U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith to accept, reject or modify Magistrate Hogan's recommendations. Mr. Taylor could not be reached for comment.

The semicolon question is an issue in other cases in federal court in Cincinnati, including one that is to go to trial next month. In that criminal case, EDGAR FRANCIS

BRADLEY or Edgar Francis; Bradley and two sons are charged with tax fraud.

They, too, separate their family name from their given names with semicolons. They, too, insist they are not the people charged and they have no obligation or contract to defend the persons named in the indictments.

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