The Office of Legal Policy (OLP) is responsible for developing policy initiatives of high priority to the Department and the Administration. The Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy serves as a primary policy advisor to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General, and as the Chief Regulatory Officer for the Department. As the Department’s think tank, OLP provides a space distinct from the Department’s day-to-day work for long-term planning that anticipates and helps to shape the terms of national debate on a wide range of forthcoming legal policy questions.
OLP also performs a high-level coordination role within the Department. OLP often handles special projects that implicate the interests of multiple Department components, and it coordinates the regulatory development and review of all proposed and final rules developed by the Department.
Further, OLP advises and assists the President and the Attorney General in the selection and confirmation of federal judges. It oversees the Department's process for vetting, interviewing, evaluating, and seeking confirmation of the nation's judiciary, in close consultation with the White House Counsel.
OLP was established by Attorney General William French Smith in 1981 as the principal Department office to plan, develop, and coordinate the implementation of major policy initiatives of high priority to the Department and to the Administration, and to assist the President and the Attorney General in the Administration's judicial selection process for Article III judges. OLP devoted considerable efforts to the areas of criminal and civil justice reform, as had some of its predecessor policy offices (among them, the Office of Criminal Justice, the Office of Policy and Planning, and the Office for Improvements in the Administration of Justice). OLP also supervised the work of the Office of Information and Privacy (OIP) with respect to Freedom of Information and Privacy Act matters.
In 1989, the office was renamed as the Office of Policy Development (OPD), and OIP was established as a separate Department component. For a one-year period, OPD was organized as a component of the newly created Office of Policy and Communications, together with the Office of Public Affairs and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. In 1993, that structure was discontinued and OPD was established again as an independent component.
In May 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft restored the name of the office and confirmed its principal role within the Department.