Zivotofsky v. Kerry

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 8, 2015
  • Case #: 13–628.
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KENNEDY, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. BREYER, J., filed a concurring opinion. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and ALITO, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Constitution grants the Executive Branch alone the power to determine national policy on the status or recognition of foreign sovereigns.

Petitioner's son was born in Jerusalem and Petitioner requested that the son’s place of birth be listed as “Israel.” The American Embassy refused to grant the request because of the Executive Branch’s policy to not acknowledge any country’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Petitioner sued, arguing that the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (FRAA) §214(d) permits the son’s place of birth to be listed as “Israel” on his passport. The FRAA grants authority to the Secretary of State to list the place of birth for a US citizen born in Jerusalem as “Israel.”

The D.C. circuit found this statute unconstitutional because it conflicts with the powers granted to the Executive Branch in the Constitution to determine the status of foreign sovereigns. U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that this national policy determination is granted to the Executive Branch because of the Reception Clause, combined with the Article II foreign policy powers. The Court held that this power is both exclusively and conclusively delegated to the Executive Branch and Congress does not have the authority to require contradictory foreign policy.

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