U.S. court: Judges can rule on passport law

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court said Monday that the federal courts are eminently capable of judging a law that would allow Jerusalem-born Americans to list Israel as their birthplace on their U.S. passport.

The justices, in an 8-1 judgment, overturned a lower court ruling that said the judiciary could not get involved in a political fight mixing Middle Eastern politics with a dispute between Congress and the president.

"The courts are fully capable of determining whether this statute may be given effect, or instead must be struck down in light of authority conferred on the executive by the Constitution," said Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion.

But because the lower courts never actually ruled on the merits of the law giving Americans born in Jerusalem the right to have Israel listed as their birthplace -- only that judges should not get involved -- Roberts said the high court did not have enough facts to determine the law's constitutionality.

"Ours is a court of final review and not first view," said Roberts, who sent the case back down to the lower courts for rehearing.

The parents of Jerusalem-born Menachem Zivotofsky sued the State Department after it wouldn't issue the boy a passport showing he was born in Israel. The United States has refused to recognize any nation's sovereignty over Jerusalem since Israel's creation in 1948.

Justice Stephen Breyer was the only dissenter on the court, saying there is a "serious risk" that judicial "intervention will bring about 'embarrassment.'"

Published: Tue, Mar 27, 2012