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

March 16, 2021:

The individual opinions from 40 Op. O.L.C. (2016), as they will soon appear in print, are available on the Opinions by Date and Title page. Volume 40 comprises five opinions previously published online in slip form, as well as the following two opinions not previously published online:

Special Government Employee Serving as Paid Consultant to Saudi Company, 40 Op. O.L.C. 1 (2016)

Obligating Carryover Funds in Violation of OMB Zero-Dollar Apportionment Rule, 40 Op. O.L.C. 90 (2016)

March 10, 2021:

The individual opinions from 38 Op. O.L.C. (2014) and 39 Op. O.L.C. (2015), as they will soon appear in print, are available on the Opinions by Date and Title page.

February 25, 2021:

The individual opinions from 37 Op. O.L.C. (2013), as they will soon appear in print, are available on the Opinions by Date and Title page. Volume 37 comprises four opinions previously published online in slip form, as well as the following two opinions not previously published online:

Sequestration of Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Funds, 37 Op. O.L.C. 63 (2013)

Obligation of Revolving Funds Requiring Reimbursement from Time-Limited Funds Under the Anti-Deficiency Act, 37 Op. O.L.C. 78 (2013)

February 23, 2021:

The individual opinions from 36 Op. O.L.C. (2012), as they will soon appear in print, are available on the Opinions by Date and Title page. Volume 36 comprises eleven opinions previously published online in slip form, as well as the following three opinions not previously published online:

Altering Puerto Rico’s Relationship with the United States Through Referendum, 36 Op. O.L.C. 93 (2012)

Appointment of Uncompensated Special Attorneys Under 28 U.S.C. § 515, 36 Op. O.L.C. 153 (2012)

Exempting the Records of the SEC Fraud Surveillance Team from Reporting Obligations in the Privacy Act, 36 Op. O.L.C. 186 (2012)

February 18, 2021:

The individual opinions from 35 Op. O.L.C. (2011), as they will soon appear in print, are available on the Opinions by Date and Title page. Volume 35 comprises twelve opinions previously published online in slip form, as well as the following opinion not previously published online:

Potential Litigation Between the Department of Labor and the United States Postal Service, 35 Op. O.L.C. 152 (2011)

February 16, 2021:

The individual opinions from 34 Op. O.L.C. (2010), as they will soon appear in print, are available on the Opinions by Date and Title page. Volume 34 comprises eleven opinions previously published online in slip form, as well as the following five opinions not previously published online:

Use of “Unanticipated Needs” Funds to Pay the Security-Related Hotel Expenses of a Supreme Court Nominee, 34 Op. O.L.C. 20 (2010)

Legal Effect of Federal Judge’s Order as Hearing Officer Under Court’s Employment Dispute Resolution Plan, 34 Op. O.L.C. 25 (2010)

Authority of OPM to Direct Health Insurer Not to Enroll Individual Deemed Eligible by Employing Agency, 34 Op. O.L.C. 51 (2010)

Department of Defense Response to Interlocutory Decision of Court of Appeals Regarding Statute Requiring Separation of Homosexual Service Members from Military, 34 Op. O.L.C. 100 (2010)

Administration of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Commission, 34 Op. O.L.C. 174 (2010)

January 19, 2021:

The following opinions have been published:

Statutory Restrictions on the PLO’s Washington Office (Sept. 11, 2018)

Requests by Individual Members of Congress for Executive Branch Information (Feb. 13, 2019)

Paying for Removing Structures at the Treasure Lake Civilian Conservation Center (Feb. 22, 2019)

Preemption of State and Local Requirements Under a PREP Act Declaration (Jan. 19, 2021)

Military Support for Customs and Border Protection Along the Southern Border Under the Posse Comitatus Act (Jan. 19, 2021)

January 18, 2021:

Volumes 39 and 40 of Op. O.L.C.—covering the years 2015 and 2016, respectively, and soon to be printed and bound—are available on the Opinions by Volume page. Posting of individual opinions from this set will follow.

January 17, 2021:

The following opinions have been published:

Home Confinement of Federal Prisoners After the COVID-19 Emergency (Jan. 15, 2021)

Application of the Hyde Amendment to Federal Student-Aid Programs (Jan. 16, 2021)

January 16, 2021:

The following opinions have been published:

Executive Branch Participation in the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (Oct. 9, 2020)

Congressional Oversight of the White House (Jan. 8, 2021)

Sex Segregation in Youth Rodeo Events Under Title IX Regulations (Jan. 13, 2021)

Religious Seasonal Decorations in Federal Government Buildings (Jan. 15, 2021)

Responsibility for Electronic Presidential Records on Hardware of the Executive Office of the President After a Presidential Transition (Jan. 15, 2021)

January 14, 2021:

Volumes 36, 37, and 38 of Op. O.L.C.—covering the years 2012, 2013, and 2014, respectively, and soon to be printed and bound—are available on the Opinions by Volume page. Posting of individual opinions from this set will follow.

January 2, 2021:

The following opinions have been published:

Assertion of Executive Privilege Over Deliberative Materials Regarding Inclusion of Citizenship Question on 2020 Census Questionnaire (June 11, 2019)

Protective Assertion of Executive Privilege Over Unredacted Mueller Report and Related Investigative Files (May 8, 2019)

December 30, 2020:

The following opinions have been published:

Mandatory Disclosure of Civil Rights Cold Case Records (Feb. 4, 2019)

Extending Regulatory Review Under Executive Order 12866 to Independent Regulatory Agencies (Oct. 8, 2019)

Appointment and Removal of Federal Reserve Bank Members of the Federal Open Market Committee (Oct. 23, 2019)

December 22, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Congressionally Mandated Notice Period for Withdrawing from the Open Skies Treaty (Sept. 22, 2020)

December 22, 2020:

The individual opinions from 33 Op. O.L.C. (2009), as they will soon appear in print, are available on the Opinions by Date and Title page. Volume 33 comprises twenty opinions previously published online in slip form, as well as the following seven opinions not previously published online:

Assistance of Counsel in Removal Proceedings (I), 33 Op. O.L.C. 1 (2009)

Constitutionality of the D.C. House Voting Rights Act of 2009, 33 Op. O.L.C. 38 (2009)

Assistance of Counsel in Removal Proceedings (II), 33 Op. O.L.C. 57 (2009)

Status of Certain Opinions Issued in the Aftermath of the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, 33 Op. O.L.C. 131 (2009)

Authority of Acting FBI Officials to Sign National Security Letters, 33 Op. O.L.C. 146 (2009)

Views on Legislation Making the District of Columbia a Congressional District, 33 Op. O.L.C. 156 (2009)

Additional Questions Concerning Use of the EINSTEIN 2.0 Intrusion-Detection System, 33 Op. O.L.C. 269 (2009)

December 21, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Authority to Withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (Oct. 17, 2018)

December 16, 2020:

Volumes 33, 34, and 35 of Op. O.L.C.—covering the years 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively, and soon to be printed and bound—are available on the Opinions by Volume page.  Posting of individual opinions from this set will follow.

December 11, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Reimbursing the Attorney’s Fees of Current and Former Federal Employees Interviewed as Witnesses in the Mueller Investigation (Oct. 7, 2020)

October 7, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Exclusion of Religiously Affiliated Schools from Charter-School Grant Program (Feb. 18, 2020)

April 29, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Licensing Marijuana Cultivation in Compliance with the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (June 6, 2018)

March 6, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Applicability of Section 410 of the Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act of 1997 to the Gateway Development Commission (Feb. 13, 2020)

January 21, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Publication of a Report to the President on the Effect of Automobile and Automobile-Part Imports on the National Security (Jan. 17, 2020)

January 20, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

House Committees’ Authority to Investigate for Impeachment (Jan. 19, 2020)

January 8, 2020:

The following opinion has been published:

Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (Jan. 6, 2020)

November 26, 2019:

The following opinions have been published:

Designating an Acting Director of National Intelligence (Nov. 15, 2019)

Designating an Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (Mar. 18, 2019)

November 4, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

Exclusion of Agency Counsel from Congressional Depositions in the Impeachment Context (Nov. 1, 2019)

September 30, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

“Urgent Concern” Determination by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (Sept. 3, 2019) [this is the slip-opinion version of the declassified September 3 memorandum immediately below]

September 26, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

Memorandum for Jason Klitenic, General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, from Steven A. Engel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Re: “Urgent Concern” Determination by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (Sept. 3, 2019) (declassified)

September 25, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

“Urgent Concern” Determination by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (Sept. 24, 2019) [this slip opinion was previously located on our Opinions by Date and Title page but has been superseded by the slip-opinion version of the declassified September 3 memorandum above and as a result relocated to our FOIA Electronic Reading Room page]

September 17, 2019:

The following opinions have been published:

Letter for Pat A. Cipollone, Counsel to the President, from Steven A. Engel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Re: Testimonial Immunity Before Congress of the Former Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Implementation (Sept. 16, 2019)

Letter for Pat A. Cipollone, Counsel to the President, from Steven A. Engel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel, Re: Testimonial Immunity Before Congress of the Former Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary (Sept. 16, 2019)

September 10, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

Religious Restrictions on Capital Financing for Historically Black Colleges And Universities (Aug. 15, 2019)

July 15, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

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

June 14, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

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

June 11, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

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

May 20, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

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

May 14, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

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

January 14, 2019:

The following opinion has been published:

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

November 14, 2018:

The following opinion has been published:

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

November 7, 2018:

The following opinion has been published:

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

August 3, 2018:

The following opinion has been published:

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

July 5, 2018:

The following opinions have been published:

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)

May 31, 2018:

The following opinion has been published:

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

November 28, 2017:

The following opinion has been published:

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

June 1, 2017:

The following opinion has been published:

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

January 27, 2017:

The following opinion has been published:

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

January 20, 2017:

The following opinion has been published:

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

January 19, 2017:

The following opinion has been published:

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

January 19, 2017:

The following opinion has been published:

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

General Information Office of Legal Counsel
Contact 

Office of Legal Counsel
(202) 514-2051