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US Supreme Court Orders State Dept. to List Jerusalem, Israel, in American Passports


Chief Justice John Roberts: "Zivotofsky does not ask the courts to determine whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."

Chief Justice John Roberts: "Zivotofsky does not ask the courts to determine whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."
Photo Credit: uscourts.gov

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday on the case of Zivotofsky v. Clinton, a suit in which Naomi and Ari Zivotofsky are challenging the way the State Department may list the birthplace of their son, nine-year-old Menachem.

The State Department, based on a long-standing U.S. policy, decided that little Menachem Zivotofsky’s birth certificate, as well as his US passport, will show Jerusalem as his birth place, without a mention of the country in which Jerusalem belongs.

The parents filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C. in 2003 objecting to the policy, based on a 2002 US law enacted shortly before Menachem was born. The new law includes a provision allowing Israel to be listed as the place of birth on the passport of any American born in Jerusalem.

A Federal judge, followed by an appeals court, dismissed the suit, saying that judges do not have the authority to order the federal government to change foreign policy, even if current policy is ignoring the will of the legislator.

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts were wrong, and that they should merely have decided whether or not Menachem Zivotofsky could have the right “to have Israel recorded on his passport as his place of birth.”

As Chief Justice John Roberts put it in his opinion: “Zivotofsky does not ask the courts to determine whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.”

Justice Stephen Breyer dissented.

Washington D.C. attorney Nathan Lewin, who has represented countless high-visibility cases related to US Jews (such as the Lubavitch movement’s famous books trial), was the Zivotofsky family’s attorney before the Supreme Court. He argued Congress indeed had the power to control a passport’s contents.

The ruling could change the status of an estimated 50,000 American citizens who have been born in Jerusalem, and who may now be able to list Israel as their birthplace.

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15 Responses to “US Supreme Court Orders State Dept. to List Jerusalem, Israel, in American Passports”

  1. Ryan H. Lee says:

    What a tremendous decision!

  2. why is there no listing as to which judge voted which way.

  3. Hallellujah! About time! and congratulations to the Zivotofskys for taking this fight all the way to the top! Now we need th government to stand by their words and move the embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

  4. So the US Supreme Court issues pro-Israel decisions (Zivotofsky v. Clinton), while the Israel Supreme Court issues anti_Israel decisions (Magron).
    CUCKOOLAND!

  5. Kol hakavod Naomi and Ari! Now let's hope the lowly clerks at the consulate will put in Israel without an argument.

  6. Alissa Burstein says:

    Not so fast–faulty reporting. See other sources. The decision making acutally has to go back to the lower court now.

  7. Alan Schleider says:

    HOLD THE CELEBRATION – The JP's report is not quite correct.

    The Supreme Court did NOT make a final judgement on the case. Rather, they ruled 8-1 (Steven Breyer only dissent) that the lower courts erred when they ruled that the Judicial Branch of the US Government lacked authority to make a ruling on the case. Here is the NY Times article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/us/justices-return-jerusalem-status-case-to-lower-court.html?ref=us

    The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court of jurisdiction, ordering it (the lower court) to make a ruling.

    Anyway, it is not closure but it is one very large step forward.

  8. Alan Schleider says:

    It was an 8-1 vote, only Steven Breyer dissented. See NY Times article http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/us/justices-return-jerusalem-status-case-to-lower-court.html?ref=us

  9. Alan Schleider WONDERFUL, thanks alan

  10. Ellen Cohn says:

    Former WHers

  11. Mazel Tov,Naomi,Ari,Such wonderful news now Jerusalem,can be on your.Son's passport.I have been in Israel eighteen months and celebrate this wonderful,victory of yours!

  12. Helène Eisenberg says:

    Not according to this morning's Times. The Supreme Court sent it back to the lower court.

  13. Yonah Fuld says:

    hi Helene i think this is a mistaken report-i think the court ordered the lower court to deal with it but did not rule

  14. Alan Schleider says:

    Jimmy Mullins – my pleasure. Regards from Israel.

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