Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Page 1


CJP Moves Hearing as High Court Names Masters in Forced Retirement Case


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Commission on Judicial Performance yesterday said it has  rescheduled a hearing on whether to force the retirement of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rodney Nelson.

The hearing, which was originally slated for Feb. 6, is not set for March 13 at 9 a.m. The location has also been moved, from Santa Ana to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.

The commission yesterday also disclosed the names of the three special masters named by the state Supreme Court to conduct the hearing. They are Sonoma Superior Court Judge  Allan D. Hardcastle, Santa Clara Superior Court Judge  Thang Nguyen Barrett, and San Diego Superior Court Judge Desiree A. Bruce-Lyle.

The commission last month initiated action to force Nelson, who has been a Superior Court judge since 1995 and has been on medical leave since May of last year, to take retired status. The commission said it had taken the rare step because Nelson suffers from “degenerative brain disease” which is, or is likely to become, permanent and which prevents him from performing his judicial duties.

Court officials would not comment, but sources said the judge was advised to take the leave after lawyers told the court administration that he was behaving erratically.

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.

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.


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