The OLC

The OLC's Opinions

Opinions published by the OLC, including those released in response to our FOIA lawsuit

This Reading Room is the most comprehensive public database of opinions written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It contains the approximately 1,400 opinions published by the OLC in its online database and the approximately 350 opinions produced to date in Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the Knight Institute.

The OLC is the component of the Department of Justice that issues legal opinions that bind executive branch officials on matters of significant public concern. Though its opinions are crucial to understanding the law as our government interprets it, the OLC does not publish its opinions as a matter of course. Instead, based on discretionary criteria, it publishes only a small subset in its online reading room.

The Knight Institute has challenged the secrecy of the OLC’s opinions in several cases. In Campaign for Accountability v. DOJ, the Institute has argued that FOIA requires the OLC to publish its legal opinions proactively, even in the absence of any FOIA request seeking their release. And in Francis v. DOJ, the Institute enforced a request under FOIA for all formal written opinions issued by the OLC prior to February 15, 1994. That request took advantage of a 2016 amendment to FOIA imposing an expiration date on the “deliberative process privilege,” which the OLC often relies upon to shield its opinions from FOIA.

In the database below, you can browse and search the OLC’s opinions, including those released in our Francis litigation. You will also find dozens of indexes containing the titles and dates of the OLC’s unclassified opinions. As part of our settlement in Francis, the OLC will produce indexes of unclassified opinions for all years between 1945 and February 15, 1994. An index of all opinion titles produced so far is available here. You can download the index in .csv format here. And here’s how you can help us determine which additional OLC opinions we should ask the OLC to release.

To get alerts when the OLC publishes a new opinion in its database, follow @OLCforthepeople on Twitter.

Showing 110 of 1945

  • Authority of the President to Prospectively Appoint a Supreme Court Justice

    If the Senate votes to confirm Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, the President may complete her appointment to the Supreme Court by signing her commission before Justice Breyer's resignation takes effect. The original opinion is available at https://www.justice.gov/olc/file/1494816/download.

    4/15/2022

  • Annotated index of 1988 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1988 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions are already publicly available (blue).

    1/28/2022

  • Annotated index of 1989 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1989 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions are already publicly available (blue).

    1/28/2022

  • Index of unclassified OLC opinions from January 1, 1988 to February 15, 1994

    The OLC disclosed this index—of unclassifed OLC legal opinions from January 1, 1988 to February 15, 1994—to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University as part of the settlement of Francis v. DOJ.

    1/28/2022

  • Annotated index of 1993 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1993 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions are already publicly available (blue).

    1/28/2022

  • Annotated index of 1990 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1990 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions are already publicly available (blue).

    1/28/2022

  • Annotated index of 1992 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1992 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions are already publicly available (blue).

    1/28/2022

  • Annotated index of 1991 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1991 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions are already publicly available (blue).

    1/28/2022

  • Annotated index of unclassified OLC legal opinions written between January 1, 1994 and February 15, 1994

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in the first six weeks of 1994 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions are already publicly available (blue).

    1/28/2022

  • Effect of 2020 OLC Opinion on Possible Congressional Action Regarding Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment

    A 2020 opinion of the Office of Legal Counsel that addressed the legal status of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment is not an obstacle either to Congress's ability to act with respect to ratification of the ERA or to judicial consideration of questions regarding the constitutional status of the ERA. The original opinion is available at www.justice.gov/olc/file/1466036/download.

    1/26/2022

Related Content