Supreme Court to Tackle Foreign Policy Dispute in Case to be Argued by Law School Lecturer-in-Law

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New York, May 10, 2011--The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case to be argued by Columbia Law School Lecturer-in-Law Nathan Lewin that will test the president’s foreign policy powers and the jurisdiction of federal courts.
At issue in M.B.Z. v. Clinton is a 2002 law that requires the U.S. State Department to record on a passport that a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem was born in Israel. The American parents of the boy, now eight years old, sued after the State Department refused. Lewin represents the family.
The government has argued the law impermissibly interferes with the Executive Branch’s foreign policy powers. Since the Truman administration the U.S. has refused to recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Two lower courts had refused to hear the case, on the grounds that the issue was a “political question” outside the boundaries of a court’s jurisdiction. In granting certiorari, the Supreme Court said it would resolve the political question issue and asked lawyers to also argue whether the law infringes on the president’s power to recognize foreign sovereigns.
“Opponents of Israel are permitted to avoid the sovereign that the President has recognized, and no one is alarmed over the foreign-policy implications of allowing such exceptions,” Lewin wrote in urging the high court to take the case. “American citizens born in Jerusalem who support Israel are discriminatorily prohibited from listing “Israel” as their place of birth even if they were born in West Jerusalem – an area that is internationally recognized as part of Israel.”
The court will hear arguments for the case this fall.
Lewin teaches a seminar, “Religious Minorities in Supreme Court Litigation,” at the Law School every spring. He served in the Office of Solicitor General from 1963 to 1967, and was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice John M. Harlan. Lewin, who has spent 40 years as a trial and appellate litigator, has argued 27 cases before the Supreme Court.
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