The Legislative Assembly constantly is presented with new and difficult legal questions. These questions arise from a variety of sources, including changes in federal law, the implementation of initiative measures, the relationship between different branches of government and the concerns of constituents. One of the functions of the Office of the Legislative Counsel is to provide answers to these questions in order to assist the members of the legislature in developing effective laws and sound public policies.
Every lawyer in the Office of the Legislative Counsel specializes in particular subject areas. When a member of the legislature requests a formal legal opinion, the request is given to the lawyer with expertise in the appropriate area. When responding to the member's inquiry, the lawyer must first determine what information will be most helpful to the legislator. Because many of the questions involve complex facts or issues, responding to the legislator often requires contacting the legislator or the legislator's staff to obtain additional information. It is often necessary to make repeated inquiries of the legislator or staff, or to contact outside sources to collect sufficient relevant information.
Once the lawyer has obtained sufficient factual information, the lawyer will begin researching the applicable laws. The office is well equipped with a law library and computerized legal research tools. Legal research commonly involves evaluation of state and federal constitutions, state and federal statutes, court decisions and administrative rules. After researching the law, the lawyer will evaluate how that law applies to the legislator's question and will provide a written legal opinion to the legislator.
Sometimes the answer to a legal question may cause a legislator to pursue changes to the law. If the law is found in the Oregon statutes, the lawyer might suggest how to change the statutes to accomplish the desired result. It is the goal of the Office of the Legislative Counsel to assist the Legislative Assembly in developing effective laws to govern the citizens of the state and our institutions.
Contact information and answers to frequently asked questions about the legislature, legislative process and other government agencies.
The staff of the Oregon Legislature cannot respond to public requests for legal advice. To understand and protect your legal rights, consult your private lawyer.
If you have questions or comments about the content of this web page, please send the Office of the Legislative Counsel an e-mail.