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The California Commission on Judicial Performance has taken the unusual step of publicly seeking the ouster of a Superior Court judge allegedly stricken with a degenerative brain disease. The judicial watchdog agency on Wednesday said Judge Rodney Nelson, a 10-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, has a disability — likely permanent — that “seriously interferes” with his ability to serve on the bench and constitutes grounds for his forced retirement. The commission did not provide any details or say whether it was acting in response to a complaint about Nelson’s behavior. Nelson is not accused of misconduct. His attorney, Edward George Jr. of Long Beach, Calif., didn’t return phone messages Wednesday. The judge has until Dec. 22 to respond to the commission’s actions. Nelson has not overseen a courtroom since he was placed on administrative leave on May 16 of this year, according to a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The court’s public information office declined to make further comment and referred all other questions to the CJP. Judicial sources with knowledge of the situation said Nelson began exhibiting signs of forgetfulness early this year. Court officials monitored the situation and do not believe any cases Nelson heard in his downtown civil court were compromised, the sources said. The commission brings a handful of discipline cases each year, but formal proceedings aimed at forcing the retirement of a disabled judge are exceedingly 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. Under the CJP’s current rules, the state Supreme Court will now appoint a panel of special masters who will conduct a hearing to review the complaint against Nelson and announce its findings to the CJP. The commission can then choose to dismiss the matter or force Nelson to retire. Nelson, 71, practiced civil law until Gov. Pete Wilson appointed him to the bench in 1995. He’s handled a number of notable cases in recent years. In 2002, the judge granted prosecutors’ request, in the wake of the Rampart police scandal, to dismiss an injunction barring Los Angeles gang members from congregating in public, according to the Los Angeles Times. Later that year, various media outlets reported that Nelson ordered entertainer Liza Minnelli and a Los Angeles couple into mediation over a failed deal to buy the singer’s $2.75 million home.

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