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 361370 of 1945

  • Legality of Fixed-Price Intergovernmental Agreements for Detention Services

    The Department of Justice has authority to enter Intergovernmental Agreements with state or local governments to provide for the detention of federal prisoners and detainees on a fixed-price basis and is not limited to providing compensation for costs under such agreements. 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/file/19001/download.

    12/31/2002

  • Duty to File Public Financial Disclosure Report

    A member of a commission in the Executive Branch need not file a public financial disclosure report in circumstances where the employee's salary is set by administrative action within a range specified by statute, is below the statutory salary threshold for such reports, but could have been set at a level making a public report necessary. The financial disclosure obligations of Legislative Branch officials should be construed similarly, because the statutory language applicable to officials in the Executive Branch is, in relevant part, identical to that applicable to officials in the Legislative Branch. 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/file/19006/download.

    12/19/2002

  • Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement

    The President does not have a legal duty to make a nomination for Under Secretary of the Treasury for Enforcement. If the President does not make a nomination, the Secretary of the Treasury could perform the duties himself or assign them to another official of his department. 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/file/19011/download.

    12/19/2002

  • Bureau of Prisons practice of placing in community confinement certain offenders who have received selltences ofimprisonment

    This opinion concludes that it is unlawful for the Bureau of Prisons to place certain federal offenders it deemed to be low-risk and nonviolent in a community corrections center, halfway house, or other forms of "community confinement," rather than in prison, since the Bureau of Prisons does not have the statutory authority to do so. 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 https://justice.gov/olc/page/file/936276/download.

    12/13/2002

  • Whether False Statements or Omissions in Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Declaration Would Constitute a "Further Material Breach" Under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441

    False statements or omissions in Iraq's weapons of mass destruction declaration would by themselves constitute a "further material breach" of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. 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/file/19016/download.

    12/7/2002

  • Expiration of Authority of Recess Appointees

    Two members of the National Labor Relations Board who received recess appointments between the first and second sessions of the 107th Congress may not continue to serve on the Board after the Senate adjourned the second session sine die. 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/file/19021/download.

    11/22/2002

  • Signing of H.J. Res. 124

    This opinion determines that President Bush needs not sign H.J. Res. 124 in handwriting to signify his approval the bill, but can rather direct an aide to affix the President’s signature to it, since the word “sign” is expansive enough to include the meaning of “cause the bill to bear the President’s signature.” 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 https://justice.gov/olc/page/file/936271/download.

    11/22/2002

  • Designation of Acting Solicitor of Labor

    Eugene Scalia, now serving as the Solicitor for the Department of Labor under a recess appointment, could be given a second position in the non-career Senior Executive Service in the Department of Labor before or after his recess appointment expires and, while serving in his non-career Senior Executive Service position, could be designated as the Acting Solicitor after his recess appointment expires. 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/file/19026/download.

    11/15/2002

  • Effect of a Recent United Nations Security Council Resolution on the Authority of the President Under International Law to Use Military Force Against Iraq

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 does not alter the legal authority, under international law, granted by existing U.N. Security Council resolutions to use force against Iraq. 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/file/19031/download.

    11/8/2002

  • Authority of the President Under Domestic and International Law to Use Military Force Against Iraq

    The President possesses constitutional authority to use military force against Iraq to protect United States national interests. This independent constitutional authority is supplemented by congressional authorization in the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution. Using force against Iraq would be consistent with international law because it would be authorized by the United Nations Security Council or would be justified as anticipatory self-defense. 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/file/19036/download.

    10/23/2002

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