This is a book about law. It is also a book about the people who are charged with the duty to faithfully execute it. Between 1985 and 1989, I served in the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), an office described by those who know it as the attorney general's lawyer. The point of this book is not to reminisce about my experience as first deputy assistant, and then, assistant attorney general, overseeing this office, but to record the manner in which the law served as both an instrument of, and constraint on, the dramatic changes that occurred during the Reagan era.
The role of the attorney general since its inception in the Judiciary Act of 1789 has been to be "learned in the law" and to give opinions upon matters of law to the president and heads of departments. But the attorney general is also an administrator, overseeing a vast network of attorneys and nonlegal personnel in Washington, D.C., and throughout the United States. Frequently, attorneys general have been close friends (and even a brother in one notable case) of the President. These close relationships make attorneys general important policy advisors as well. With this many responsibilities, it is hardly surprising that the attorney general relies on lawyer-specialists for assistance with various parts of his great responsibilities. The heads of the criminal, civil, civil rights, antitrust, and land and natural resource divisions fit this bill.
But the attorney general has also come to rely upon one lawyergeneralist for objective advice with complex legal questions that implicate the Constitution or crosscut multiple legal fields. This constitutional lawyer and general legal advisor is the head of the Office of Legal Counsel. Their photographs hang in a small, oddly shaped conference room down