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Justice Fortas Announces He Will Leave High Court

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Justice Abe Fortas yesterday announced his resignation from the Supreme Court. President Nixon accepted it immediately. The resignation of a Supreme Court Justice under pressure is unprecedented.

Fortas, who has been under sever criticism for accepting and returning 11 months later a $20,000 fee from the family foundation of financier Louis E. Wolfson, sent Nixon his letter of resignation Wednesday night. He also sent Chief Justice Earl Warren a letter of explanation about the fee.

Fortas received the fee while Worlfson's activities were under government investigation. He returned it when the financier was indicted for violating Federal Securities Law. Wolfson was convicted and is not serving a jail sentence.

Investigation Asked

Before Fortas sent Nixon his resignation, Rep. Clark MacGregor (R-Minn.) formally asked the House Judiciary Committee to start an investigation of Fortas' relationship with Wolfson to determine whether Fortas' conduct warranted impeachment proceedings.

Sen. Joseph D. Tydings (D-Md.) also criticized Fortas' conduct. Tydings supported Fortas during Senate Judiciary committee hearings last year on his nomination for Chief Justice by former president Lyndon Johnson.

In a May 4 statement explaining the fee, Fortas said it was offered by the Wolfson foundation in 1966 "in the hope that I would find time and could undertake consistently with my court obligations, research functions, studies, and writings, connected with the work of the foundation. Concluding that I could not undertake the assignment I returned the fee with my thanks."

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