Federal judge orders Justice Department to release ‘secret’ legal opinions

A Washington, D.C. federal judge ruled that the Justice Department must release a part of the legal opinions it was keeping under wraps. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson found that one class of opinions on inter-agency disputes were final opinions and as such were statements of policy and interpretations adopted by at least one of the disputing agencies and could be released. (The National Law Journal, September 14, 2020, by Jacqueline Thomsen)

The opinions cited by the judge account for a quarter of all opinions from the department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and are of the same important within the executive branch as Supreme Court opinions. “These memos are crucial to the public’s ability to understand government policy and hold government decision makers accountable for their decisions,” said Anna Diakun of the Knight First Amendment Institute. “The public is entitled to know what law is governing the Executive Branch, not just the small fraction of it that the OLC wants it to know.” (Knight First Amendment Institute, September 12, 2020, press release)

For related FAC coverage, click here, here and here.