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 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 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 Francis, the OLC produced approximately 350 opinions from the years 1965, 1969, 1974, and 1981, which can be found in the database below, before agreeing to a settlement that committed it to producing (1) indexes of all unclassified OLC opinions written from 1945 to February 15, 1994; (2) 230 additional opinions selected from those years; and (3) an index of classified OLC opinions written from 1964 to February 15, 1994. This reading room has already been updated with unclassified opinion indexes (which are also available as a comprehensive list here and in .csv format here). Additionally, the Knight Institute has published two opinions received under the settlement discussing the release of the Pentagon Papers. The Institute will continue updating the reading room with new records from the OLC over the summer.

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

Showing 431440 of 1947

  • Effect of the Alienage Restriction in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 on the Provision of Stafford Act Assistance in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands

    Congress did not intend the alienage restriction set forth in title IV of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 to apply extraterritorially. For this reason, the provision of Stafford Act assistance in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands by the Federal Emergency Management Agency would not violate the PRWORA. 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/19286/download.

    1/19/2001

  • "Communications" Under 18 U.S.C. § 207

    A former high-ranking government official proposed establishing a consulting firm—as a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation—in which he would be one of a very few employees, or perhaps even the sole employee. If, as hypothesized, the consulting firm prepares a report on behalf of certain clients, which is submitted directly to his former agency by the consulting firm or, with the former official's knowledge, by his client with the report bearing the consulting firm's name, and it is expected by the former official that his identity as the author of the report may be commonly known throughout the industry and at his former agency, he would be making a communication prohibited by 18 U.S.C. § 207(c). 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/19276/download.

    1/19/2001

  • General Services Administration Use of Government Funds for Advertising

    Section 632 of the Treasury, Postal Service, Executive Office of the President, and General Government Appropriations Act of 2000, which prohibits the use of appropriated funds for "publicity or propaganda purposes," does not prohibit the General Services Administration from using appropriated funds to support a reasonable and carefully-controlled advertising campaign that serves the goal of informing other federal agencies about the products and services it offers. The principles set forth in some opinions of the Comptroller General addressing limitations on advertising by federal agencies beyond the "publicity or propaganda" rider would not prohibit the GSA's advertisements to other agencies. 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/19261/download.

    1/19/2001

  • Authority to Solicit Gifts

    The express statutory authority to accept gifts, contained in section 403(b)(1) of the Office of Government Ethics Authorization Act of 1996, includes the implied authority to solicit gifts. 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/19281/download.

    1/19/2001

  • Authority of the Office of Government Ethics to Issue Touhy Regulations

    The Office of Government Ethics may not issue Touhy regulations pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 301 because OGE is not an "executive department" within the meaning of section 301. OGE may issue Touhy regulations, insofar as they concern the production of agency records, pursuant to 44 U.S.C. § 3102. OGE may issue regulations concerning the appearance of agency employees as witnesses on official matters, pursuant to the implied authority of OGE's organic statute, 5 U.S.C. app. § 401. 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/19291/download.

    1/18/2001

  • Reimbursing Transition-Related Expenses Incurred Before the Administrator of General Services Ascertained Who Were the Apparent Successful Candidates for the Office of President and Vice President

    The General Services Administration can reimburse the Bush/Cheney transition for legitimate transition-related expenses, as contemplated by the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, that were incurred after the general election on November 7, 2000 but prior to December 14, 2000, when the Administrator of GSA ascertained that George W. Bush and Richard Cheney were the apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President. 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/19296/download.

    1/17/2001

  • Whether the President May Have Access to Grand Jury Material in the Course of Exercising His Authority to Grant Pardons

    The President, in the exercise of his pardon authonty and responsibilities under Article II, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, may request that the Pardon Attorney include grand jury information in any recommendation the Attorney may make in connection with a pardon application if the President determines that his need for such information in considering that application outweighs the confidentiality interests embodied in Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The prohibition in Rule 6(e) cannot constitutionally be applied to prevent the President from obtaining grand jury information already in the possession of the executive branch when the President determines that, for purposes of making a clemency decision, his need for that information outweighs the confidentiality interests embodied in Rule 6(e). 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/19301/download.

    12/22/2000

  • Authorization for Continuing Hostilities in Kosovo

    Pub. L. No. 106-31, the emergency supplemental appropriation for military operations in Kosovo, constituted authorization for continuing hostilities after the expiration of sixty days under section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution. 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/19306/download.

    12/19/2000

  • Authority of the General Services Administration to Provide Assistance to Transition Teams of Two Presidential Candidates

    The Presidential Transition Act of 1963, with certain limited exceptions, authorizes the Administrator of the General Services Administration to provide transition assistance only for those services and facilities necessary to assist the transition of the "President-elect" and the "Vice-President-elect," as those terms are defined in the Act. Since there cannot be more than one "President-elect" and one "Vice-President-elect" under the Act, the Act does not authorize the Administrator to provide transition assistance to the transition teams of more than one presidential candidate. 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/19311/download.

    11/28/2000

  • Payment of Attorney's Fees in Litigation Involving Successful Challenges to Federal Agency Action Arising Under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Citizen-Suit Provisions of the Endangered Species Act

    For purposes of settling attorney's fees claims in a case arising under both section 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act and the citizen-suit provisions of the Endangered Species Act, federal litigators, in allocating hours and costs between the APA-Equal Access to Justice Act and ESA claims, should subordinate EAJA section 2412(d) to ESA section 11(g)(4). Under this approach, hours and costs necessary to both counts should be assigned to the ESA claim for attorney's fees purposes, leaving only the hours and costs necessary only to the APA claim to be paid under EAJA. 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/19316/download.

    11/27/2000

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