Best Practices for OLC Legal Advice and Written Opinions

Photo of Department of Justice Library

By delegation, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) exercises the Attorney General’s authority under the Judiciary Act of 1789 to provide the President and executive agencies with advice on questions of law.  OLCs core function, pursuant to the Attorney General's delegation, is to provide controlling advice to Executive Branch officials on questions of law that are centrally important to the functioning of the Federal Government.  In performing this function, OLC helps the President fulfill his or her constitutional duties to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”  It is thus imperative that the Office's advice be clear, accurate, thoroughly researched, and soundly reasoned.  The value of OLC advice depends upon the strength of its analysis.  OLC must always give candid, independent, and principled advice—€”even when that advice is inconsistent with the aims of policymakers.  This memorandum reaffirms the longstanding principles that have guided and will continue to guide OLC attorneys in all of their work, and then addresses the best practices OLC attorneys should follow in providing one particularly important form of controlling legal advice the Office conveys: formal written opinions.

Read the complete memo (PDF)