On June 8, 2016, CfA filed a lawsuit to force the Department of Justice to release opinions from the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The OLC serves as legal advisor for the federal government, issuing opinions on the meaning of laws that are immensely consequential. Some have been used to justify controversial policies such as extraordinary rendition, torture, and the killing of Americans abroad. The Justice Department does not prosecute individuals whose actions are justified by OLC opinions, even if those actions are later determined illegal.
On March 22, 2016, CfA requested that OLC fulfill its legal obligations by publishing its opinions. Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Bies responded to CfA’s request in May, stating that OLC has the discretion to decide on an individualized, case-by-case basis, whether to publish its opinions. Given OLC’s hard and fast position, CfA filed suit in the District Court for the District of Columbia to compel OLC and DOJ to comply with their legal obligations under the FOIA.
On October 6, 2017, United States District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson issued an opinion in the case explaining her reasons for dismissing CfA's complaint but inviting CfA to file an amended complaint. On October 27, 2017, CfA filed an amended complaint.