Question of Law

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Question of Law

An issue that is within the province of the judge, as opposed to the jury, because it involves the application or interpretation of legal principles or statutes.

At any stage in a proceeding, before or during trial, a judge may have to determine whether to let a jury decide a particular issue. In making this determination, the judge considers whether the issue is a question of law or a question of Fact. If the question is one of fact, it should be decided by the jury at trial. If the question is one of law, the judge may decide it without affording the parties the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses to the jury.

A question of law involves the interpretation of principles that are potentially applicable to other cases. In contrast, a question of fact requires an interpretation of circumstances surrounding the case at hand. Resolving questions of fact is the chief function of the jury. Resolving questions of law is a chief function of the judge.

If the pleadings and initial evidence in a case show that there are no factual disputes between the parties, a court may grant Summary Judgment to a party. Summary judgment is a final judgment in the case made by the court before trial. A court may grant summary judgment in a case that contains no factual disputes because such a case presents only a question, or questions, of law, so the fact-finding function of the jury is not needed.

On appeal, the trial court's ruling on a question of law generally receives closer scrutiny than a jury's findings of fact. Being present at the trial, the fact finder is in a better position than the appeals court to evaluate evidence and testimony.

An issue may be characterized on appeal as a mixed question of law and fact. A mixed question occurs when the facts surrounding the case are admitted and the rule of the applicable law is undisputed; the issue then is whether the Rule of Law was correctly applied to the established facts. In a criminal case, for example, assume that a trial court, over the objection of the defendant, allows the prosecution to present evidence that the defendant was identified as the perpetrator. If the defendant is found guilty and challenges the identification procedure on appeal, the question is one of both law and fact. The appeals court must decide whether the trial court correctly applied the law on due process in identification procedures to the particular identification procedure used in the case. In such a case, the appeals court will scrutinize both the facts and the trial judge's rulings on questions of law.

Further readings

Thomas, Janet Shiffler. 1984. "Likelihood of Confusion Under the Lanham Act: A Question of Fact, A Question of Law, or Both?" Kentucky Law Journal 73.

question of law

n. an issue arising in a lawsuit or criminal prosecution which only relates to determination of what the law is, how it is applied to the facts in the case, and other purely legal points in contention. All "questions of law" arising before, during, and sometimes after a trial are to be determined solely by the judge and not by the jury. "Questions of law" are differentiated from "questions of fact," which are decided by the jury and only by the judge if there is no jury. (See: question of fact, trier of fact, judge)

References in periodicals archive ?
57(1)(l) (2015) ("The agency in its final order may reject or modify the conclusions of law over which it has substantive jurisdiction and interpretation of administrative rules over which it has substantive jurisdiction.
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, supra note 114, at *4; Appellant's Brief, supra note 115, at3.
78) Moreover, Cook argued, many allegations condemned as conclusions of law are just as readily seen as general statements of fact.
The Board entered a final order adopting the administrative complaint as the Board's findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Examples are multi-party litigation, complex technical subjects beyond the common experience of the court and counsel, and the court's desire to have neutral insight into issues which must be the subject of findings of fact and conclusions of law.
3) "Mere conclusions of law recited by an accused are insufficient to provide a factual basis for a guilty plea.
North Carolina State Bar Disciplinary Commission Amended Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Order of Discipline [section] Findings of Fact (21), (22), (27), (29), (42), N.
Upon remand, the magistrate judge should first decide whether the development of the facts at the first trial was sufficient to make his/her own findings of fact and conclusions of law on both liability and damages.
The Bank Commissioner did not perform his statutory duty as he did not make conclusions of law based on specific findings of fact each supported by citations to evidence," Kilgore wrote.
We think that his conclusions of law are incorrect,'' said Maurier.
According to the conclusions of law, the Disney group displayed an interdependence between entities which required that they all be included in a New York State combined report.
The plaintiff's trial brief, proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, closing argument and response to the defendants' brief, and the court's memorandum and order in a case involving an Army hospital's failure to diagnose breast cancer.