[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Monday in two cases. In MBZ v. Clinton [transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments on whether the political question doctrine [Cornell LII backgrounder] deprives a federal court of jurisdiction to enforce a federal statute that explicitly directs the secretary of state how to record the birthplace of an American citizen on a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and on a passport. US citizen Menachem Zivotofsky was born in Jerusalem in 2002. His parents asked the State Department to record his place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel, but were told it could only be listed as Jerusalem because the US does not recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. His parents filed suit in 2003, and a federal district court dismissed the suit as a political question. Counsel for the government argued:
The Executive has determined that the passports it issues should not identify Israel as the place of birth for persons born in Jerusalem. Petitioner seeks relief … that would countermand that executive judgment. But under the Constitution that is an exercise of the Executive’s exclusive recognition power. The Constitution commits that power exclusively to the Executive and neither a court nor the Congress can override that judgment.
Counsel for the petitioner said, “I don’t think the Court is being asked to decide a question of foreign policy.”
In Kawashima v. Holder [transcript, PDF; JURIST report], the court heard arguments to clarify what counts as an aggravated felony for purposes of removing an immigrant from the country. Petitioners Akio and Fusako Kawashima are natives and citizens of Japan who were living in California as lawful permanent residents. Petitioners were charged with, and pleaded guilty to, filing, and aiding and abetting in filing, a false statement on a corporate tax return. An immigration judge concluded that the convictions were “aggravated felonies” within the meaning of 8 USC § 1101(a)(43)(M)(i) [text], ordering petitioners to be removed. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the decision, and it was later upheld [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has reached the opposite conclusion. Several justices were skeptical of petitioners’ position that an intentional lie does not necessarily mean an intent to deceive.