A U.S. Court Rules on Jerusalem

(Excerpted, with permission, from the Americans for Peace Now Legislative Round-Up)

On 7/23, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that American citizens born in Jerusalem do not have a legal right to demand that their place of birth be recorded as “Israel” in their passports… This ruling is the latest chapter in a years-long saga involving efforts by Congress and activists to compel the Executive branch of the U.S. government to change U.S. policy with respect to Jerusalem. …This multi-pronged effort has included legislation to force the transfer of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as well as laws compelling the State Department to recognize Israel as Jerusalem’s capital in passports and reports of birth.  Every administration, Democratic and Republican, has viewed these efforts as infringing on the Executive’s foreign policy prerogative and has either vetoed such legislation or declared it unconstitutional (for full history, see here).

As part of this effort, the parents of an American citizen child born in Jerusalem sued the U.S. government to compel it to record their son’s place of birth as “Israel” in his passport. The goal of this lawsuit is to force the Secretary of State to comply with a 2002 law that seeks, in effect, force the State Department to de facto recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Bush, when he signed that bill into law, issued a signing statement declaring this particular provision unconstitutional.

Previously, the Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the case should be dismissed because it presented a “political question.” Subsequently the petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. A large number of Jewish organizations joined an amicus brief in support of the petitioners.  APN at that time filed an Amicus Brief to the Court in support of the Executive branch’s position.

In March 2012, the Supreme Court ruled, essentially, that the lower court must first rule on the merits of then case, and only then can that ruling be appealed to the Supreme Court. In effect, the Supreme Court kicked the case back down to the lower court, requiring it to rule on the constitutionality question. Last week, a federal court of appeals did just that – and this time around the court ruled, decisively, that the law in question is unconstitutional (in arguments very similar to those presented in APN amicus brief). It is unknown a this point whether the plaintiffs will again appeal to the Supreme Court, and if they do, it is unknown if the Court will decline to hear the case again.