The OLC's Opinions

Documents released in our FOIA lawsuit for OLC legal opinions issued prior to 1994

This Reading Room contains all of the documents produced to date in Francis v. Dep’t of Justice, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit the Knight Institute filed on behalf of five scholars, Campaign for Accountability, and the Institute on August 21, 2019, seeking formal written opinions issued by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) prior to August 21, 1994.

The OLC is a component of the Department of Justice that issues legal opinions that bind federal agencies and officials on matters of significant public concern. In the past, the OLC has avoided disclosing its opinions under the Freedom of Information Act by invoking a privilege that protects government deliberations. In 2016, Congress amended FOIA to eliminate that privilege for records over 25 years old. This lawsuit takes advantage of that amendment.

On April 28, 2020, the OLC released to us its first set of documents in response to our request—96 unclassified legal opinions from 1974. We will publish additional documents here as we receive them.

This FOIA litigation is part of the Knight Institute's broader effort to vindicate the public’s right of access to the OLC’s formal legal opinions. In another case, Campaign for Accountability v. DOJ, the Institute has argued that FOIA requires the OLC to publish its legal opinions presumptively, even in the absence of any FOIA request seeking their release.


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