The OLC
Astrid Da Silva

The OLC's Opinions

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

This Reading Room is a 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 opinions produced in Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the Knight Institute, including opinions about the Pentagon Papers, the Civil Rights Era, and the War Powers Act. It also contains indexes of all unclassified OLC opinions written between 1945 and February 15, 1994. Those indexes are also available as a comprehensive list here and in .csv format here.

The Knight Institute will continue updating the reading room with new records. To get alerts when the OLC publishes a new opinion in its database, follow @OLCforthepeople on Twitter.

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  • Congressional Oversight of the White House

    Congressional oversight of the White House is subject to greater constitutional limitations than oversight of the departments and agencies of the Executive Branch, in light of the White House staff's important role in advising and assisting the President in the discharge of his constitutional responsibilities, the need to ensure the independence of the Presidency, and the heightened confidentiality interests in White House communications. The OLC does not provide release dates for its opinions, so the release date listed is the date on which the opinion was authored. The original opinion is available at www.justice.gov/olc/file/1355831/download.

    1/8/2021

  • OLC FOIA Interim Response Letter

    10/27/2020

  • Executive Branch Participation in the Cyberspace Solarium Commission

    In our tripartite constitutional structure, any commission performing federal functions must reside within a single one of the three branches of government. The Cyberspace Solarium Commission is properly viewed as a Legislative Branch entity, because congressional appointees compose the majority of the Commission's membership, the Commission exercises the investigative authorities of a congressional committee, and the Commission's ultimate mission is to advise Congress. The Executive Branch officials serving on the Commission should act with one unified voice, subject to executive supervision, in advising the Commission and should maintain the confidentiality of Executive Branch information when sharing their information and expertise with the Commission. The OLC does not provide release dates for its opinions, so the release date listed is the date on which the opinion was authored. The original opinion is available at www.justice.gov/olc/file/1355826/download.

    10/9/2020

  • Reimbursing the Attorney's Fees of Current and Former Federal Employees Interviewed as Witnesses in the Mueller Investigation

    The Department of Justice Representation Guidelines authorize, on a case-by-case basis, the reimbursement of attorney's fees incurred by a current or former federal government employee interviewed as a witness in the Mueller Investigation under threat of subpoena about information the person acquired in the course of his government duties. The OLC does not provide release dates for its opinions, so the release date listed is the date on which the opinion was authored. The original opinion is available at www.justice.gov/olc/file/1347786/download.

    10/7/2020

  • Congressionally Mandated Notice Period for Withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty

    In establishing a mandatory waiting period for withdrawing from a treaty, section 1234(a) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 unconstitutionally interferes with the President's exclusive authority to execute treaties and to conduct diplomacy. The OLC does not provide release dates for its opinions, so the release date listed is the date on which the opinion was authored. The original opinion is available at www.justice.gov/olc/file/1348136/download.

    9/22/2020

  • Annotated Index of 1974 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1974 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions were released in response to the Knight Institute's FOIA request (green), which opinions are currently being processed (yellow), which opinions were already publicly available (blue), and which opinions were not selected by the Knight Institute for processing (white).

    8/7/2020

  • Annotated index of 1974 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1974 to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This version of the index (annotated by Institute staff) shows which opinions were released in response to the Knight Institute's FOIA request (green), which opinions are currently being processed (yellow), which opinions were already publicly available (blue), and which opinions were not selected by the Knight Institute for processing (white).

    8/7/2020

  • Index of 1945 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed this index—of unclassifed OLC legal opinions from 1945—to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University during the litigation in Francis v. DOJ. The OLC labeled the index "preliminary."

    8/4/2020

  • OLC FOIA Interim Response Letter

    7/27/2020

  • Index of 1954 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed this index—of unclassifed OLC legal opinions from 1954—to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University during the litigation in Francis v. DOJ. The OLC labeled the index "preliminary."

    7/8/2020

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