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JUDGE TO RETIRE AMID BRAIN DISEASE CLAIMS Facing accusations that a degenerative brain disease has made him unfit for the bench, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rodney Nelson on Friday announced his retirement effective March 20. A Commission on Judicial Performance hearing on Nelson’s actions that was scheduled for today in Pasadena has been canceled. The commission in early December sought Nelson’s involuntary retirement, accusing the judge of suffering from a disability “that seriously interferes with the performance of your judicial duties and that is or is likely to become permanent.” The commission didn’t elaborate about Nelson’s alleged behavior, nor did it say whether it was responding to a complaint. Two weeks later, Nelson, through his attorney, filed a response denying the commission’s charges. On Friday afternoon, however, the judge notified the commission that he is retiring. Nelson’s lawyer, Edward George Jr. of Long Beach, did not return messages left with his office Friday. Nelson, who took office in March 1995, has been on administrative leave since May 5, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The commission brings several discipline cases each year, but formal proceedings aimed at forcing the retirement of a disabled judge are rare. In 1977, a tribunal of seven state appellate court justices ordered California Supreme Court Justice Marshall McComb to retire after several of his high-court colleagues testified that he suffered from disabling senility. In 1978, the state Supreme Court forced San Diego County Municipal Court Judge Charles Roick to retire, also because of a disability. Acting through a conservator, Roick declined to fight the findings and asked for the court’s order to take effect immediately, according to Victoria Henley, the commission’s chief counsel. � Cheryl Miller HIGH COURT CONSIDERS JOB EXPENSES CASE The California Supreme Court has taken on a little-noticed employment case that will determine whether an employer must reimburse employees for specific out-of-pocket job expenses or can simply raise pay and call things even. The suit by two Southern California salesmen for PennySaver advertising weeklies relies on a 1937 state labor statute requiring employers to indemnify workers for job-related expenses. The law doesn’t specify how that can be done � through expense payments or by adjusting salaries and commissions. The appeal is likely to catch the attention of labor practitioners outside California as well because more than a dozen other states have similar statutes or common law requirements, including Florida, Illinois, Kansas, New York and Pennsylvania, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Kathleen Carter of Hollins Schechter of Santa Ana. “The practical ramifications are alarming,” Carter said. “Why would any employer use a mileage rate or expense accounts, with separate checks for expense reimbursement, when a simple �your salary covers expenses’ comment is recognized as a facially acceptable plan under [Labor Code] §2802?” Salesmen Frank Gattuso and Ernest Sigala sued Harte-Hanks Shoppers Inc., a marketing company that distributes 8 million advertising publications a week in California. They wanted reimbursement for driving expenses connected with the job, arguing that increased pay instead of reimbursement would effectively nullify the law and create new tax problems. Harte-Hanks attorney Raymond Kepner of the Los Angeles office of Chicago’s Seyfarth Shaw, countered, “If the plaintiffs’ argument were accepted it would call into question mileage allowances and per diems and a host of flexible arrangements employers have worked out through enforceable agreements or policies.” � The National Law Journal

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