Office of Legal Counsel

Office of Legal Counsel

Office of Legal Counsel wooden door sign

About The Office

By delegation from the Attorney General, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel provides legal advice to the President and all executive branch agencies.  The Office drafts legal opinions of the Attorney General and provides its own written opinions and other advice in response to requests from the Counsel to the President, the various agencies of the Executive Branch, and other components of the Department of Justice.  Such requests typically deal with legal issues of particular complexity and importance or those about which two or more agencies are in disagreement.  The Office is also responsible for reviewing and commenting on the constitutionality of pending legislation.

All executive orders and substantive proclamations proposed to be issued by the President are reviewed by the Office of Legal Counsel for form and legality, as are various other matters that require the President’s formal approval.

In addition to serving as, in effect, outside counsel for the other agencies of the Executive Branch, the Office of Legal Counsel plays a special role within the Department itself.  It reviews all proposed orders of the Attorney General and regulations requiring the Attorney General’s approval.  It also performs a variety of special assignments referred by the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General.

The Office of Legal Counsel is not authorized to give legal advice to private persons.

New from OLC

Posted July 15, 2019:

Testimonial Immunity Before Congress of the Assistant to the President and Senior Counselor to the President (July 12, 2019)

Posted June 14, 2019:

Congressional Committee’s Request for the President’s Tax Returns Under 26 U.S.C. § 6103(f) (June 13, 2019)

Posted June 11, 2019:

Attempted Exclusion of Agency Counsel from Congressional Depositions of Agency Employees (May 23, 2019)

Posted May 20, 2019:

Testimonial Immunity Before Congress of the Former Counsel to the President (May 20, 2019)

Posted May 14, 2019:

Whether the Food and Drug Administration Has Jurisdiction over Articles Intended for Use in Lawful Executions (May 3, 2019)

Posted January 14, 2019:

Reconsidering Whether the Wire Act Applies to Non-Sports Gambling (Nov. 2, 2018)

Posted November 14, 2018:

Designating an Acting Attorney General (Nov. 14, 2018)

Posted November 7, 2018:

Authority to Order Targeted Airstrikes Against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Dec. 30, 2014)

Posted August 3, 2018:

The Scope of State Criminal Jurisdiction over Offenses Occurring on the Yakama Indian Reservation (July 27, 2018)

Posted July 5, 2018:

Applicability of the Miscellaneous Receipts Act to an Arbitral Award of Legal Costs (Mar. 6, 2018)

The Department of Defense’s Authority to Conduct Background Investigations for Its Personnel (Feb. 7, 2018)

Committee Resolutions Under 40 U.S.C. § 3307(a) and the Availability of Enacted Appropriations (Jan. 6, 2018)

Temporary Certification Under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (Oct. 26, 2017)

Appointment of United States Trade Representative (Mar. 13, 2017)

Who Qualifies as a “Very Senior” Employee Under 18 U.S.C. § 207(d)(1)(B) (Jan. 19, 2017)

Authority of the Department of Health and Human Services to Pay for Private Counsel to Represent an Employee Before Congressional Committees (Jan. 18, 2017)

Administration of the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission (Jan. 10, 2017)

Prosecutorial Discretion Regarding Citations for Contempt of Congress (June 16, 2014)

Posted May 31, 2018:

April 2018 Airstrikes Against Syrian Chemical-Weapons Facilities (May 31, 2018)

Posted November 28, 2017:

Designating an Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (Nov. 25, 2017)

Posted June 1, 2017:

Authority of Individual Members of Congress to Conduct Oversight of the Executive Branch (May 1, 2017)

Posted January 27, 2017:

Constitutional Concerns Presented by Proposed Orderly Liquidation Authority Panel (Apr. 19, 2010)

Posted January 20, 2017:

Application of the Anti-Nepotism Statute to a Presidential Appointment in the White House Office (Jan. 20, 2017)

Posted January 19, 2017:

Application of the Recommendations Clause to Section 802 of the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (Aug. 25, 2016)

Posted January 19, 2017:

Whether the Review Described in Section 4 of Executive Order 13497 Remains Pending for Purposes of Section 7 of That Order (Aug. 28, 2009)

Posted December 1, 2016:

Applicability of the National Emergencies Act to Statutes That Do Not Expressly Require the President to Declare a National Emergency (Aug. 24, 2016)

Posted August 2, 2016:

Whether a Military Officer May Continue on Terminal Leave After He Is Appointed to a Federal Civilian Position Covered by 10 U.S.C. § 973(b)(2)(A) (Mar. 24, 2016)

Posted July 30, 2016:

Authority to Permit Part-Time Employees to Work Regularly Scheduled Workweeks of 33 to 39 Hours (Dec. 31, 2015)

Posted July 28, 2016:

Authority of the Chairman of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board to Disclose Performance Appraisals of Senior Executive Service Employees (May 21, 2015)

Posted May 2, 2016:

Authority of the Department of Justice to Disclose Statutorily Protected Materials to Its Inspector General in Light of Section 540 of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Apr. 27, 2016)

Posted April 21, 2016:

Interpretation of Article 17 Bis of the US-EU Air Transport Agreement (Apr. 14, 2016)

Posted March 18, 2016:

The Authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to Order a Federal Agency to Pay a Monetary Award to Remedy a Breach of a Settlement Agreement (Aug. 13, 2014)

Residence Requirement for Assistant United States Attorneys Under 28 U.S.C. § 545(a) (Nov. 20, 2012)

Whether Individuals May Be Required to Provide Basic Identifying Information in Order to Access the Financial Disclosure Reports Made Available on Agency Websites During the Period Governed by Section 11(a) of the STOCK Act (Aug. 22, 2012)

Whether the Department of Health and Human Services May Provide the Government Accountability Office Access to Information in the National Directory of New Hires (Aug. 23, 2011)

Census Confidentiality and the PATRIOT Act (Jan. 4, 2010)

General Information Office of Legal Counsel

Steven A. Engel
Assistant Attorney General


Office of Legal Counsel
(202) 514-2051