Willamette Law Online

United States Supreme Court Certiorari Granted


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Zivotofsky v. Kerry

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: April 21, 2014
Case #: 13-628
Court Below: 725 F.3d 197 (D.C. Cir. 2013)
Full Text Opinion: http://www2.bloomberglaw.com/public/desktop/document/Zivotofsky_v_Secy_of_State_725_F3d_197_DC_Cir_2013_Court_Opinion

Constitutional Law: Whether a federal statute directing the Secretary of State to list the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem as Israel on the Consular Report of Birth Abroad and on the U.S. passport is unconstitutional because the statute "impermissibly infringes on the President's exercise of the recognition power reposing exclusively in him."

Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, requires the Secretary of State to record "Israel" as the place of birth on the passport of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem if the citizen or his guardian so requests. Plaintiff's parents sought to list his birthplace as "Jerusalem, Israel", and sued when "Jerusalem" was listed as the place of birth. In prior history, the Secretary of State has not enforced the provision, since it intrudes on the President's exclusive authority under the United States Constitution to decide whether and on what terms to recognize foreign nations. Due to the nature and sensitivity of the issue, U.S. Presidents have consistently followed a strict policy of not getting involved in Jerusalem status issues because they do not want to engage in official actions that would recognize, or may result in, Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, or even as a sovereign territory. 

The lower district court determined that a separation of powers dispute exists when both branches are involved in a struggle, and that section 214(d) impermissibly infringes on the President's exercise of the recognition power reposing exclusively in him under the Constitution. Petitioner petitioned for certiorari to the Supreme Court, alleging that whether the President has the power to determine recognition of birthplace is an issue of national importance. In addition, Petitioner argues that the historical survey used by the court of appeals is incorrect and conflicts with other surveys and assessments. Thus, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether the Secretary of State can list American citizens' birthplace as Israel, or if it impermissibly infringes on the President's exercise power.