Supreme Court Sends Jerusalem Passport Case Back To Lower Court
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Supreme Court Sends Jerusalem Passport Case Back To Lower Court

The U.S. Supreme Court returned to the lower courts the issue of whether Americans born in Jerusalem may list "Israel" on their passports — a ruling that drew praise from Jewish groups.

The decision delivered Monday was a success for the family of Jerusalem-born boy Menachem Zivotofsky. His family for years has sought to force the State Department to agree to state on his passport that he was born in Israel, citing a law passed by Congress in 2002.

President George W. Bush signed the law, but in doing so refused to implement it, citing executive prerogative in foreign policy. President Obama has continued that practice.

The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision, overruled lower court decisions that had contended that the judicial branch does not have authority over this area since it is not the courts' place to determine foreign policy.

"The courts are fully capable of determining whether this statute may be given effect, or instead must be struck down in light of authority conferred on the Executive by the Constitution," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented.

National Jewish groups backed the Zivotofskys and submitted friend of the court briefs on their behalf.

Among the first groups to welcome the latest decision was the Orthodox Union.

“The Jewish connection to Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s place within Israel are both historic and holy,” the organization said in a statement. “With the ruling of the high court, Congressional policy on Jerusalem … will get its day in court.”

A lower court had held that the judiciary should not interfere in a political fight between Congress and the president regarding Middle East policy. But Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for an 8-1 majority, said “the courts are fully capable of determining whether this statute may be given effect, or instead must be struck down in light of authority conferred on the executive by the constitution.”

The parents of Jerusalem-born Menachenm Zivotofsky sued the State Department after it refused to issue him a passport listing Israel as his birthplace. Successive Republican and Democratic administrations have declined to enforce the law for fear of appearing to take a position on the thorny issue of Jerusalem’s final status.

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