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The OLC's Opinions

Opinions published by the OLC, including those released in response to our FOIA lawsuit

This Reading Room is the most comprehensive public database of opinions written by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). It contains the approximately 1,400 opinions published by the OLC in its online database and the opinions produced in Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the Knight Institute, including opinions about the Pentagon Papers, the Civil Rights Era, and the War Powers Act. It also contains indexes of all unclassified OLC opinions written between 1945 and February 15, 1994. Those indexes are also available as a comprehensive list here and in .csv format here.

The Knight Institute will continue updating the reading room with new records. To get alerts when the OLC publishes a new opinion in its database, follow @OLCforthepeople on Twitter.

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  • Appointees to the Civil Rights Commission and Possible Conflicts of Interest

    The opinion concludes that President Eisenhower may constitutionally and legally appoint candidates to the Civil Rights Commission during a congressional recess. However, the opinion raises concerns about the proposed appointments, including the implication for conflict-of-interest statutes, dual employment statutes, political backlash and perceived impropriety. The OLC does not provide release dates for its opinions, so the release date listed is the date on which the opinion was authored. The original opinion is available at


  • Access to Classified Information for Scholarly Research


  • Scope and Effect of Jencks Decision


  • Admission of Hungarian Refugees


  • Designation of White Citizens Councils

    This opinion considered whether the Attorney General had authority to designate White Citizens Councils as a “totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive” group under Executive Order 9835. The opinion described the “deep and aggressive hostility to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments” expressed by members of White Citizens Councils, but conveyed concerns about “labeling as subversive, and classing with Communists and Fascists, so large and otherwise loyal a group of individuals as compose the membership of the Citizens Councils.”


  • Presidential succession


  • Opinion of the Attorney General of Kentucky on Racial Integration of its Public Schools

    The memo analyzed the exclusion of Black students in two segregated Kentucky schools with the support of the state attorney general on the purported basis that enrollment was “illegal” until the local school boards created a formal integration plan. The OLC’s memo acknowledged that the primary responsibility for integration laid with local school boards, but noted that the school boards had adopted no plan for integration whatsoever, and that the opinion supporting the exclusion of the students was likely rooted in political opposition to integration.


  • Constitutionality of Pending Bills Restricting the Withdrawal of Public Land for National Defense

    Pursuant to his constitutional powers as Commander in Chief, the President, particularly in time of war or national emergency, may have authority without the authorization of Congress to reserve and use public lands for the training and deployment of the armed forces of the United States for national defense purposes. If the above is true, any attempted restriction of this authority by Congress would be an unconstitutional invasion of the President's authority as Commander in Chief. The OLC does not provide release dates for its opinions, so the release date listed is the date on which the opinion was authored. The original opinion is available at


  • Dissemination of information made available to the Commission on Government Security


  • Presidential proclamation for use of federal troops in civil disturbances


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