CJP Initiates Forced Retirement Proceeding Against Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rodney Nelson
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Commission on Judicial Performance has initiated formal proceedings seeking to force the retirement of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rodney Nelson, the commission disclosed yesterday.
The commission said it had taken the rare step because Nelson, a Superior Court judge since 1995, suffers from “degenerative brain disease” which is, or is likely to become, permanent and which prevents him from performing his judicial duties.
A Superior Court spokesperson said Nelson has been on administrative leave from the court since mid-May. Officials would not comment further, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters, but sources said the judge was advised to take the leave after lawyers told the court administration that he was behaving erratically.
Nelson’s attorney, Edward George, did not return a MetNews phone call.
No judge has been ordered retired by the CJP since it was empowered to take that action under a legislative constitutional amendment 15 years ago. Before the amendment, the state Supreme Court could order a judge retired on the CJP’s recommendation.
The high court last took such action against Supreme Court Justice Marshall F. McComb in 1977, finding that the then-82-year-old jurist suffered from “chronic brain syndrome, senile dementia,” and against North San Diego County Municipal Court Judge Charles Robert Roick in 1978.
Roick, who was subject to a conservatorship at the time, did not contest the commission’s recommendation, unlike McComb, who challenged the constitutionality of the court’s action, claiming, among other things, that he had been denied the right to trial by jury and that he could only be removed by impeachment.
All of his contentions were unanimously rejected by the court.
In Nelson’s case, the state Supreme Court will appoint three special masters to take testimony and make findings, which will be reported to the 11-member commission, which will hear final argument and make a decision, which will be subject to discretionary review by the Supreme Court.
Nelson, a Minneapolis native who earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota and his law degree at Columbia University, was practicing business litigation with his wife as the firm of Nelson & Nelson in West Los Angeles when then-Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the court in 1995.
He studied political theory for a year at Stanford before entering law school.
He began his legal career in 1960 as an associate at O’Melveny & Myers before moving on to a series of partnerships. He started Nelson & Nelson in 1992 after six years as a partner at Bryan Cave, and was an arbitrator for the Superior Court before his judicial appointment.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company