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U.S. Supreme Court Orders Trial in ‘Israel’ Passport Dispute

March 26 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Supreme Court said a lower court should consider a suit filed under a law that lets Americans born in Jerusalem designate Israel as their place of birth on their passport.

A trial judge and a federal appeals court barred a hearing in the case, ruling that questions about Jerusalem’s status are political issues that can’t properly be reviewed by the courts. In an 8-1 decision today, the high court said the lawsuit should go forward. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented.

“The courts are fully capable” of determining whether the Zivotofskies have a valid claim under the law or whether the statute “must be struck down in light of authority conferred on the executive by the Constitution,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court.

The ruling is a victory for the parents of 9-year-old Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky. They sued in 2003 to have Israel listed on the boy’s passport, pointing to a 2002 law giving Jerusalem-born passport holders or their parents the option of using Israel as the designation.

The Obama administration contended that Congress was infringing on the president’s exclusive power to recognize foreign sovereigns and determine their territorial boundaries. The State Department has a policy of not taking a position on the political status of Jerusalem.

The Zivotofsky family’s lawyers argued that any presidential interest in the place-of-birth designation was too trivial to warrant overturning an act of Congress. Thirty-nine members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, filed a brief urging the court to uphold the law.

“Insofar as the controversy reflects different foreign policy views among the political branches of government, those branches have nonjudicial methods of working out their differences,” Breyer wrote in his dissent.

The case is Zivotofsky v. Clinton, 10-699.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at

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