The Texas Constitution and sections 402.042 and 402.043 of the Texas Government Code grant the attorney general authority to issue attorney general opinions. An attorney general opinion is a written interpretation of existing law. Attorney general opinions cannot create new provisions in the law or correct unintended, undesirable effects of the law. Attorney general opinions do not necessarily reflect the attorney general's personal views, nor does the attorney general in any way "rule" on what the law should say. Furthermore, attorney general opinions cannot resolve factual disputes.
An attorney general opinion issued under sections 402.042 or 402.043 of the Texas Government Code is different from the legal advice, opinions and decisions that the attorney general provides under other Texas statutes. For example, an attorney general opinion issued under section 402.042 of the Texas Government Code is not an Open Records Decision issued under chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code or an All Bond Counsel Letter issued under section 402.044 of the Texas Government Code.
Courts have stated that attorney general opinions are highly persuasive and are entitled to great weight; however, the ultimate determination of a law's applicability, meaning or constitutionality is left to the courts. For this reason, the attorney general generally does not write attorney general opinions on issues that are involved in pending litigation.
Sections 402.042 and 402.043 of the Government Code list the officials who are authorized to request formal attorney general opinions on questions of law. The attorney general is prohibited by statute from giving a written opinion to anyone other than an authorized requestor. Authorized requestors are:
A person other than an authorized requestor who would like to request an attorney general opinion may ask an authorized requestor to submit the question to the attorney general. The authorized requestor has the discretion to decide whether to ask for an attorney general opinion in any given instance.
Section 402.042(c) of the Government Code requires that a request for an attorney general opinion be in writing and sent by either electronic mail or by certified or registered mail, with return receipt requested, and addressed to the attorney general in Austin. Please review the information on the How To Request An Attorney General Opinion page for details.
Once an authorized request is received, the attorney general answers the request by interpreting existing law in accordance with all applicable statutes and the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Texas. The opinion process frequently involves extensive legal research by the group of assistant attorneys general known as the Opinion Committee. In addition to researching the law, the Committee solicits briefs from persons and groups that it deems likely to be affected by the opinion. The Committee welcomes additional briefs and any written commentary from the public, but the attorneys involved in the process do not engage in dialogue or explanation with interested parties or with the public. The draft opinion is reviewed by the attorney general and signed by the attorney general before it is issued. The written opinion speaks for itself.
Most opinions are issued within 180 days of the request, but the amount of time required may vary depending on the volume of research required and the number and length of commentaries and briefs received. This website offers a self-service automated email opinion notification service. Subscribers' personal information resides on a secure server and is protected by a password of their choosing. Subscribers have the option to sign up for a number of different email notifications and can subscribe or unsubscribe as they wish. The Office of the Attorney General does not release any subscriber's email address.
When attorney general opinions are issued, they are posted on this website, usually within 24 hours in PDF format. Opinions are available dating back to 1939. To view opinions by number, use the indexes listed on the left. Opinion requests and pending requests for opinions are also available.
In some prior administrations, both formal opinions and letter opinions were issued. On January 4, 1999, Attorney General John Cornyn discontinued the practice of issuing letter opinions. All attorney general opinions are now issued under the attorney general's initials, i.e., Attorney General Ken Paxton's opinions are named as KP-0001, KP-0002, etc.
Pending requests are sometimes closed without issuing an opinion. Reasons for this may include: