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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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  • Assertion of Executive Privilege by the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission

    Questions put to the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission regarding conversations he may have had with the President or his assistants in the White House come within the scope of the executive privilege, whereby information, papers, and communications which the President or the heads of the executive departments or agencies deem confidential in the public interest need not be disclosed to a congressional committee. In addition, the questions are within the scope of the President's letter of May 17, 1954 to the Secretary of Defense setting forth the Administration's policy that, in the public interest, advisement on official matters between employees of the Executive Branch of the government be kept confidential, and any conversations, communications, documents or reproductions concerning such advisement not be disclosed in congressional hearings. Even if it were conceded only for the purpose of argument that the Atomic Energy Commission is a typical independent regulatory commission, which is not in one branch of the government to the exclusion of others but straddles at least two branches so as to be part of each, there is historical precedent indicating that, as to the executive functions of such a commission, its officers and employees have a right, and, when directed by the President, a duty to invoke the executive privilege. The so-called fraud exception to executive privilege does not exist. The precedent for the so-called exception really evidences the unlimited discretion of the President to determine whether the public interest requires that the executive privilege be invoked or waived in a particular case. 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


  • Authority under Executive Order No. 10501 to declassify information


  • Constitutionality of a Joint Resolution Requiring the President to Propose a Balanced Budget Every Year

    A proposed joint resolution requiring the President annually to propose a budget in which estimated expenditures do not exceed estimated receipts, if made effective, would be invalid. 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


  • Administration of Truth Serums Without Consent


  • Application of Emoluments Clause to Receipt of German Pension


  • Payment of Compensation to Individuals in Receipt of Compensation from a Foreign Government (Mr. Richard E. Newkirk, OAP)

    This opinion examines whether Richard E. Newkirk, a German émigré who left his work as a civil servant in Germany to avoid Nazi persecution, can receive compensatory annuity from the post-war German government while serving in the Department of Justice. The opinion concludes that while a federal officer may receive damages, the annuity scheme proposed by the German government is not exclusively a payment for damages. As a result, Newkirk would have to choose between the annuity and his employment at the Department of Justice. 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


  • Use of the Regulatory Powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Postmaster General to Achieve Aims of the Government Contract Program Against Discrimination in Employment

    This opinion concluded that the Interstate Commerce Commission had authority under the Interstate Commerce Act to address racial discrimination in the employment of railway employees.


  • Elimination of Racial Segregation in Interstate Transportation

    On the heels of Brown v. Board of Education, this memo advised that there was “ample reason to believe that the legal basis for segregation in transportation is crumbling” and encouraged the Attorney General to “press with renewed vigor for the elimination of the doctrine,” including by intervening in two then-ongoing cases.


  • Application of the Hatch Act to Top Government Executives


  • Searches and Seizures Under the Fourth Amendment


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