WASHINGTON (May. 15)
Abe Fortas, the fifth Jew to serve on the United States Supreme Court and the first to be nominated for the post of Chief Justice, resigned today under fire for accepting–but later returning–a $20,000 fee from the Wolfson Foundation. President Nixon immediately accepted the resignation.
Louis Wolfson, founder of the family foundation, is now serving a prison term for stock manipulation. The nomination of Mr. Fortas to be Chief Justice in June, 1968, touched off a battle in Congress in which charges of anti-Semitism were made but never confirmed. The then President Johnson withdrew the nomination at Mr. Fortas’ request.
Louis Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Supreme Court. Since then there has been a tradition that one seat on the court is to be filled by a Jew. That seat has been filled since Mr. Brandeis’ term by Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter and Arthur J. Goldberg, as well as Mr. Fortas.
A Supreme Court spokesman said Mr. Fortas submitted his resignation to President Nixon in a letter delivered to the White House last night. At the same time, the spokesman said, Mr. Fortas sent a letter to Chief Justice Earl Warren concerning the Wolfson Foundation fee transaction. Mr. Fortas was appointed by President Johnson to the Supreme Court in 1965.