Oral argument: Nov. 7, 2011
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (July 10, 2009)
The U.S. Embassy refused to record the place of birth of Petitioner Menachem Zivotofsky as “Jerusalem, Israel” in accordance with U.S. foreign policy to refrain from expressing an official view on whether Jerusalem is part of Israel. His parents filed suit on his behalf, demanding that the State Department comply with Section 214 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which requires the State Department to record the place of birth of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem as Israel, if the child’s legal guardians so request. The district court held that the judiciary has no authority to order the executive branch to change its foreign policy under the political question doctrine; the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed this holding. Petitioner Zivotofsky (through his parents) argues that the political question doctrine does not apply because the case involves a question of statutory interpretation. Secretary of State Clinton contends that Section 214 is unconstitutional because Congress has no authority to recognize foreign sovereigns. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will clarify the political question doctrine, and may shed light on the issue of separation of powers among the judicial, legislative, and executive branches.