Federal Law provides that the head of an executive department may request an opinion of the Attorney General[i]. Department heads may request opinions on questions of law arising in the administration of his/her department. Subordinate government officials who need opinions from the Attorney General may do so through their department heads[ii]. The Attorney General is required to give official opinion only to the President or to the heads of departments[iii]. When the department head requests an opinion of the Attorney General, s/he should state the material facts and advice desired[iv]. Also the department head should authoritatively state that the facts from which question of law arises are true.
Opinions of the Attorney General are not binding on department heads. Whether an opinion of the Attorney General is to be adopted is within discretion of the department head[v]. Also the Attorney General does not have control over the action of the head of Department at whose request and to whom an opinion is given[vi]. Further, an opinion of the Attorney General is not binding on courts. In Pueblo of Taos v. Andrus, 475 F. Supp. 359 (D.D.C. 1979), the court held that the court has power to rule on same matter presented to the Attorney General, and that the court is not bound by opinion of Attorney General.
However, In Berger v. United States, 36 Ct. Cl. 243, 247 (Ct. Cl. 1901), the court held the head of an Executive Department is bound by the opinion of the Attorney General.
[i] 28 USCS § 512
[ii] 1 Op. Atty Gen. 211
[iv] 14 Op. Atty Gen. 367
[v] 17 Op. Atty Gen. 332