The attorney general shall . . . "[g]ive his or her opinion in writing, when required, without fee, upon all questions of law submitted to him or her by the legislature, either house thereof or the senate or assembly committee on organization, or by the head of any department of state government." -- Wis. Stat. § 165.015
By statute, the Attorney General must, when asked, provide the legislature and designated Wisconsin state government officials with an opinion on legal questions. The Attorney General may also give formal legal opinions to district attorneys and county corporation counsel under certain circumstances. Wis. Stat. § 165.25(3) and 59.42(1)(c). Please see 77 Op. Att’y Gen. Preface (1988) for a more detailed explanation of the criteria for requesting a formal opinion.
Opinions of the Attorney General (OAG) typically provide guidance when confusion exists about the meaning of a statute and Wisconsin appellate courts have not yet definitively answered the question. Wisconsin courts do not have any obligation to follow an interpretation provided by an OAG, but they often do. As the Wisconsin Court of Appeals has written, "Well-reasoned attorney general's opinions have persuasive value when a court later addresses the meaning of the same statute."
Throughout the years, the Attorney General has answered a wide range of questions. Sometimes an inquiry concerns the constitutionality of proposed legislation. Other times, the question might concern the scope of a government agency's authority. Whatever the issue, the Attorney General has an obligation to offer the highest quality analysis without regard to any political or partisan favor or consequences that might follow.
Attorney General opinions are available on the website for the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau.