The OLC

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 February 15, 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.

Here, you can browse more than 350 opinions written by the agency and dozens of indexes containing the titles and dates of the OLC’s unclassified opinions for a given year. Ultimately, the OLC will produce indexes of unclassified opinions for all years between 1945 and February 15, 1994. An index of all opinion titles produced to the Knight Institute so far is available here. You can download the index in .csv format here.

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.

 

Showing 4150 of 421

  • Annotated index of 1981 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1981 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).

    4/12/2021

  • Annotated index of 1969 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1969 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).

    4/12/2021

  • Annotated index of 1965 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed a preliminary index of all unclassified OLC legal opinions issued in 1965 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).

    4/12/2021

  • OLC FOIA Interim Response Letter

    10/27/2020

  • 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

  • Index of 1977 unclassified OLC legal opinions

    The OLC disclosed this index—of unclassifed OLC legal opinions from 1977—to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University during the litigation in Francis v. DOJ. The OLC labeled the index "preliminary."

    6/5/2020