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 database of published 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 unclassified OLC opinions written between 1945 and February 15, 1994 (these indexes were created by the OLC and intended to be comprehensive). We have compiled those indexes into a single list here and in .csv format here. This Reading Room also contains an index of all classified OLC opinions issued between 1974 and 2021, except those classified or codeword-classified at a level higher than Top Secret (the OLC created this index, too, and intended it to be comprehensive).

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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  • Authority under Executive Order No. 10501 to declassify information


  • Constitutionality of a Joint Resolution Requiring the President to Propose a Balanced Budget Every Year

    A proposed joint resolution requiring the President annually to propose a budget in which estimated expenditures do not exceed estimated receipts, if made effective, would be invalid. 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


  • Administration of Truth Serums Without Consent

    This memo concluded that the involuntary administration of drugs to obtain an admission of "truth" from prisoners would likely violate their constitutional rights. Reaffirming the principle that “trespass upon one’s person can be equally offensive to the Constitution whether the subject is free or a convict,” the memo discussed the dangers posed by using drugs to induce a state of mind, including its invasion of the prisoner’s right of privacy, its potential for being put to oppressive uses, and the questionable scientific reliability of the technique itself.


  • Right of Communist Party Candidates to Broadcast Time

    This opinion addressed the intersection between the fairness doctrine and the Communist Control Act of 1954, which prohibited membership in the Communist party. The OLC concluded that the fairness doctrine’s equal time requirement would not apply to a candidate for office nominated by the Communist party, but would apply to an individual Communist who qualified as a candidate through other means.


  • Application of Emoluments Clause to Receipt of German Pension

    This brief memo rejected a proposal that the Attorney General hold a German pension award in escrow for a federal employee, explaining that the arrangement would violate the Emoluments Clause.


  • Payment of Compensation to Individuals in Receipt of Compensation from a Foreign Government (Mr. Richard E. Newkirk, OAP)

    This opinion examines whether Richard E. Newkirk, a German émigré who left his work as a civil servant in Germany to avoid Nazi persecution, can receive compensatory annuity from the post-war German government while serving in the Department of Justice. The opinion concludes that while a federal officer may receive damages, the annuity scheme proposed by the German government is not exclusively a payment for damages. As a result, Newkirk would have to choose between the annuity and his employment at the Department of Justice. 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


  • Use of the Regulatory Powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Postmaster General to Achieve Aims of the Government Contract Program Against Discrimination in Employment

    This opinion concluded that the Interstate Commerce Commission had authority under the Interstate Commerce Act to address racial discrimination in the employment of railway employees.


  • Elimination of Racial Segregation in Interstate Transportation

    On the heels of Brown v. Board of Education, this memo advised that there was “ample reason to believe that the legal basis for segregation in transportation is crumbling” and encouraged the attorney general to “press with renewed vigor for the elimination of the doctrine,” including by intervening in two then-ongoing cases.


  • Application of the Hatch Act to Top Government Executives

    This memo concluded that Congress intended to generally exempt all “policy-making officials” from the prohibitions of Section 9(a) of the Hatch Act, which prohibited officers and employees in the executive branch from participating in political activity. With this understanding, the memo construed the four categories of exempted officials enumerated in the Act to include (1) “[t]he President and Vice President of the United States,” (2) policy-making officials connected with the White House, including but not limited to those compensated directly from appropriations for “The White House Office,” (3) any head or assistant head of a department who is a policy-making official, and (4) presidential appointees who have Senate confirmation and who determine policies in “the Nation-wide administration of Federal issues.”


  • Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment

    This memo summarized “important principles [of the Fourth Amendment] which have not been weakened by passage of time, the impact of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and several recent cases which indicate the trend that the law has taken.” At a high level, the memo described the law governing the issuance of valid search warrants, and explained the law at the time that even a warrant would not justify the search of a person’s private papers “merely for the purpose of using it against the accused in trial.” The memo also identified situations in which searches and seizures without warrants were permissible, including searches incidental to arrest and searches in emergency situations with probable cause. The memo ended with a list of seven miscellaneous “principles,” including that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit wiretapping, and does not prohibit the use of illegally seized materials in a state prosecution.


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