High Court Rejects North's Bid to Block Contra Probe

Times Wire Services

The Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by Lt. Col. Oliver L. North to block an investigation of his role in the Iran-Contra affair by independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh.

The court, without comment, left intact a ruling that Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III properly authorized Walsh to conduct the inquiry.

North, fired as a National Security Council aide after the diversion of funds from Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan Contra rebels was revealed, is a target of a grand jury investigation conducted by Walsh.

Walsh was given dual authority to carry out the inquiry.

He was appointed by a special three-judge court under the Ethics in Government Act, a federal law enacted in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal to permit independent investigation of high-ranking government officials.

Both Sources Attacked

Because the constitutionality of that law is under attack by North and others, Meese also separately authorized Walsh to carry out his investigation by delegating the attorney general's law enforcement powers to the independent counsel.

North attacked both sources of Walsh's authority. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the twin challenge last Aug. 20.

The appeals court upheld Meese's authority to delegate power to Walsh and ruled that it was premature to decide North's challenge to the Ethics in Government Act.

The appeals court thus upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Aubrey E. Robinson that North is in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena for samples of his handwriting issued by the grand jury investigating him.

After the high court's action, James Wieghart, a spokesman for Walsh's office, said, "We are pleased that any question as to the authority of this office to carry on its investigation of the Iran-Contra matter has now been laid to rest by the courts."

In December, Walsh said he expected that the grand jury would return charges sometime in February.

Other Court Decisions

The constitutionality of the Ethics in Government Act is being challenged in a separate case pending before a federal appeals court in Washington.

In other cases, the court:

--Left intact the perjury conviction of Walter L. Nixon, a federal trial judge from Mississippi. Federal prosecutors may now seek a start to his five-year prison sentence.

--Rejected a free-speech challenge to the way Los Angeles taxes businesses operating within the city. The court, citing the lack of a "substantial federal question," let stand rulings that the tax is valid even though it subjects, on a percentage basis, newspaper and magazine publishers and radio and television stations to greater taxes than it does movie producers. The city business tax was attacked in a 1984 lawsuit filed by Times Mirror Co., which publishes The Times; Tribune Newspapers West, which published the Los Angeles Daily News, and Lozano Enterprises, which publishes the daily newspaper, La Opinion.

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