On Monday the Supreme Court issued a long-awaited and important decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry. This was a case about the nature of the President’s power to recognize foreign borders, and it required the Court to address the constitutionality of Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2002, which entitled U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem to have “Jerusalem, Israel” listed on their passports as the place of birth. While the statutory entitlement may seem rather mundane, it conflicted with the Executive Branch’s longstanding policy of strict neutrality on Jerusalem’s status by suggesting that the city is located within Israeli borders. Because the Executive policy dictated that passports list only “Jerusalem,” Presidents Bush and Obama refused to implement the statute. Thus the question: Who gets to decide whether the United States will recognize Jerusalem as Israeli territory–Congress or the President?
The Court sided with the President and declared the statute unconstitutional. I wrote a post addressing one of the interesting issues in the case over at Lawfare; it’s available here.
To the parties and lower courts, Zivotofsky v. Kerry has been a dispute primarily about the nature of the President’s power to recognize foreign borders. But what if the law also raises another, entirely separate issue under Article II?
In a new essay in the NYU Journal of Law & Liberty, I discuss the possibility that Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003 is unconstitutional not because it recognizes a border or materially interferes with the implementation of U.S. recognition policy, but simply because it purports to compel diplomatic speech that the President opposes. From this angle, Zivotofsky presents a question about who controls official diplomatic communications, and recognition is beside the point. The essay is available here.
Recently the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Zivotofsky v. Kerry to resolve an important question in U.S. foreign relations law: does the power to recognize foreign states and governments belong exclusively to the President, or do the political branches hold it concurrently? More specifically, the case concerns the constitutionality of Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 2003, which requires that upon request from a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem the Secretary of State must record “Israel” as the place of birth on the individual’s passport. After signing the bill into law, President Bush declined to honor its terms, and President Obama has done likewise. Both have argued that the passport requirement impermissibly interferes with the President’s recognition power because it contradicts a longstanding U.S. policy not to acknowledge the sovereignty of any state over Jerusalem. The Zivotofskys appear to agree that honoring the requirement would amount to U.S. recognition of an Israeli state that includes Jerusalem, but contend that the statute is constitutional and binding on the President because Congress shares in the recognition power. Oral argument is scheduled for the fall. If you’re interested, I wrote a brief analysis of the case over at the international law blog Opinio Juris. You can read it here.