Zivotofsky v. Kerry Case Brief

Facts of the case

In 2002, Manachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem to parents who are United States citizens. Manachem’s parents requested that the U.S. State Department record his place of birth on his passport as Israel,in accordance with Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003 (Act). The State Department refused and instead issued Manachem a passport that listed Jerusalemas his place of birth. His parents sued the Secretary of State on his behalf and sought the enforcement of Section 214(d). The district court dismissed the case on the grounds that it presented a non-justiciable political question. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Zivotofsky v. Clinton , reversed that holding and remanded the case. On remand, the district court held that Section 214(d) impermissibly interefereswith the President’s exclusive power to recognize foreign states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed and held that the section goes beyond the scope of Congress’s passport power to affect United States foreign policy, which is a realm the Constitution reserves for the executive branch.


The Court held that based on the text and structure of the Reception Clause, U.S. Const. art. II, § 3 , and the President’s additional article II powers set forth in U.S. Const. art. II, § 2, cl. 2 , as well as related judicial precedent and the accepted understandings and historical practice, the power to recognize or decline to recognize a foreign state and its territorial bounds resided in the President alone. Section 214(d) was unconstitutional as it was a mandate that the President contradict his prior recognition determination in an official document issued by the Secretary of State. Congressional authority over passports did not save § 214(d) as it allowed Congress to aggrandize its power at the expense of another branch by requiring the President to contradict an earlier recognition determination in an official passport.

  • Advocates: Alyza D. Lewin for the petitioner Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the respondent
  • Petitioner: M. B. Z., By His Parents and Guardians, Ari Z. Zivotofsky, et ux.
  • Respondent: John Kerry, Secretary of State
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: Shaare Zedek Hospital
Citation: 576 US _ (2015)
Granted: Apr 21, 2014
Argued: Nov 3, 2014
Decided: Jun 8, 2015
Zivotofsky v. Kerry Case Brief