About Attorney General Opinions
As a matter of legal principle, courts are limited to deciding actual cases and controversies. This means that until an actual dispute arises which pits opposing parties against each other, the courts cannot provide guidance on interpreting statutes or regulations issued by the Legislature. However, certain officials are authorized by statute to request opinions on legal issues from the Attorney General.
An opinion issued by the Attorney General is an interpretation of current state law without regard to specific factual issues. Opinions are generally issued to clarify confusing or ambiguous statutes which have not been, or are unlikely to be, addressed by a court decision. Although courts do consider these opinions to be strongly persuasive, the opinions themselves are not binding upon the courts. This means that while an opinion provides strong support that the position adopted in the opinion is correct, a court may reach a different conclusion where specific facts lead to a contrary result.
For this reason, Attorney General opinion letters should be used cautiously and only as guidance in undefined or novel areas of legal interpretation. Once a court has issued a decision on a given matter, that judgment will generally be given deference over an Attorney General’s opinion on those matters specifically addressed in the court judgment. Depending upon which court issues the decision, other courts may be required to follow the court judgment even if it contradicts the AG opinion.
For more information about Attorney General opinions, the process for requesting an opinion, and an index of all opinions issued since 1939, visit https://www.oag.state.tx.us/opin/.