Attorney General’s opinions are issued to answer questions of law raised by public agencies or officials, including:
- the legislature or either house of the legislature
- any state officer, board or commission
- the city attorney of any city or town
- the county attorney or board of county commissioners of any county
Private citizens may not request Attorney General opinions. See the guidelines for opinion requests below.
The opinions carry the weight of law, unless they are overturned by a court or the legislature changes the law or laws involved.
Opinions issued from 1899 – 1992 are located on the Montana Judicial Branch’s website at https://courts.mt.gov/library/mr/agopinions.
Guidelines for Opinion Requests
Legal matters considered appropriate for a written opinion from the Attorney General’s Office must meet the following requirements:
Standing: The requestor must have standing for an opinion—that is, the request must be submitted and signed by one of the following: an elected state official; the leadership of the Montana House or Senate; a department head, chairperson of or chief counsel for a state office, board, or commission; a city attorney, town attorney, or county attorney; or the chairperson of or attorney for a board of county commissioners, 2-15-501(7) of the Montana Code Annotated.
The request must involve a question of law relating to the requestor’s office, MCA 2-15-501(7).
Legal Memorandum: The request must be accompanied by a memorandum of authority citing basic research and points of law bearing upon the request. The memorandum should include the requestor’s own conclusion on the question presented.
Written opinions from the Attorney General’s Office typically involve the interpretation of a state statute. Some requests may not be appropriate for a written opinion. Such requests fall into the following categories:
Factual disputes: questions involving factual disputes (e.g., credibility or liability questions). Matters which require the Attorney General to determine whether a party has engaged in criminal conduct often are primarily factual disputes and should be referred to the Prosecution Services Bureau unless they have general applicability.
Abstract questions: questions concerning wholly abstract or hypothetical factual situations, the occurrence of which is unlikely or highly speculative.
Constitutionality of a law: questions that involve the constitutionality of a statute.
Interpretations of federal law or a local ordinance: questions that exclusively involve interpretation of a federal law or local ordinance. However, issues involving the relationship between state and federal or local law may be appropriate for a written opinion.
Matters in litigation: matters that are directly at issue in pending litigation or that are more appropriately determined adversarially, including matters that will likely result in litigation irrespective of the outcome of a written opinion from the Attorney General’s Office.
Interpretations of legislative bills: interpretations of bills subject to future or ongoing legislative consideration or enacted bills not yet signed by the governor.