The Supreme Court yesterday let stand a lower court ruling that Nelson A. Rockefeller was not entitled to take a tax deduction for $550,000 in legal fees and other expenses incurred when Congress considered his nomination for vice president in 1974.
Rockefeller was nominated by President Gerald R. Ford after Ford succeeded President Richard M. Nixon. The confirmation process lasted four months and cost Rockefeller, who died in 1979, $550,159.74 in fees and costs of responding to information requests and testifying before various committees.
Rockefeller's estate has said the money was deductible as a business expense. His "trade or business" was holding public office, his estate said, and his new position as vice president was similar to his old job as governor of New York.
The Internal Revenue Service disallowed the deduction and said the estate owed $44,293 in back taxes. Lower federal courts agreed, ruling in Rockefeller v. IRS that the jobs were sufficiently different and the expenses could not be deducted.
In another case, the justices removed a barrier yesterday to the expulsion from the United States of a man accused of being "Ivan the Terrible" -- the Nazi death camp guard responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews in Treblinka, Poland.
The court turned down the appeal of John Demjanjuk, a 65-year-old retired Cleveland auto worker. The action, after years of legal sparring, means Demjanjuk may be deported, according to Neal Sher, head of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations.
A federal court has granted Israel's request for Demjanjuk's extradition, Sher said, but that decision is likely to be appealed soon to the Supreme Court. Demjanjuk has been in federal prison in Springfield, Mo., since April, when a judge ordered him sent to Israel for trial.
In other action, the court:
*Unanimously ruled that the 1974 Speedy Trial Act does not allow defendants more time to prepare their cases if prosecutors make minor changes in indictments. Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said Congress, in granting defendants a minimum of 30 days to prepare for trial, did not intend that extensions be allowed in such cases. Justices Harry A. Blackmun and William J. Brennan Jr. concurred in U.S. v. Rojas-Contreras.
*Declined to hear the appeal of a Minnesota woman who claimed she had a constitutional right to consult a lawyer on whether to take a blood alcohol test for drunk driving. Justices Byron R. White and John Paul Stevens dissented, saying the court should settle the issue in Nyflot v. Minn. Commissioner of Public Safety.