Despite the "alarming informality" in which Judge John Taylor ran his courtroom--
... he sometimes propped his feet up, he often cleaned his fingernails with his pocket knife... (Chapter 16)
and closed his eyes during testimony--he always remained in complete control. It is obvious that he takes his job seriously. Though he has the appearance of a "sleepy old shark," it is just an act, brought on by years of service and an inner confidence that few other small town judges possessed. That he takes the Tom Robinson case seriously is best exhibited by his appointment of Atticus as Tom's defense attorney. Normally, public defenders would handle the case, but Taylor recognizes the importance of the capital case, and he also understands that Tom is probably innocent and that the Ewells are lying about the actual events.
"John Taylor pointed at me and said 'You're It.' " (Chapter 9)
Taylor knew that Atticus would provide a better defense than another court-appointed lawyer, and the judge wanted Tom to receive the best representation possible. When Bob Ewell threatens the serenity of Taylor's courtroom, the judge strongly admonishes him; and when Bob pretends to show a "dogged earnestness," it
... fooled Judge Taylor not at all: as long as Ewell was on the stand, the judge kept his eyes on him, as if daring him to make a false move. (Chapter 17)
When Mayella's repeated crying brings Atticus's questioning to a standstill, Taylor admonishes her, first gently but firmly--
"Now, you're a big girl, so you just sit up straight and tell the--tell us what happened to you." (Chapter 18)
When Mayella balks at answering Atticus's questions because she thinks the always gentlemanly Atticus is " 'makin' fun o'me,' " Taylor's patience begins to wear thin.
"What's the matter with you?" (Chapter 18)
And when Link Deas stands up and announces that Tom had never given him " 'a speck o'trouble' " in the eight years Tom had worked for him, Taylor orders Deas to " 'Shut your mouth, sir!' " and evicts him from the courtroom. Reverend Sykes believes that Taylor has handled the trial fairly, calling the judge
"... mighty fair-minded... I thought he was leanin' a little to our side--" (Chapter 21)
But Taylor is forced to go along with the jury verdict, and he must know that the jury has sentenced an innocent man to his death. If it was not clear then, it certainly must have become obvious after the judge nearly shot the vengeance-seeking Bob while prowling outside his back porch.