Providing legal opinions to government officials is a key function of state attorneys general and has been from the beginning of the office. Because most public officials are not lawyers and it can be difficult to determine the meaning of a law without the application of legal training, attorney general offices provide legal opinions to their clients every day in a variety of ways.
Formal written legal opinions of the attorney general answer questions of law from state agencies or officials about the agency’s or official’s legal duties. Commonly known as attorney general opinions, these opinions are prepared by and reviewed by attorneys in the office, including the attorney general, through an established process and have the authority of the office behind them.
Attorney general opinions are usually only provided to state or local officials, including legislators. They are only issued if the requested topic is appropriate. Most attorney general offices will not issue an opinion about issues that are the subject of litigation, issues that are policy, rather than legal, issues, and hypothetical issues. In a few states, legal opinions from the attorney general are binding on state agencies. However, in most states, these opinions are merely advisory, although the courts give them significant weight.
Attorney general opinions can be found on most attorney general office websites. Examples of attorney general opinions can be found at the links below: