Question of Law


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Related to Question of Law: question of fact

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 ?
On the other hand, the Court might decide whether likelihood of confusion is a question of fact or a question of law on its way to resolving the Seventh Amendment issue, and the possibility of a reversal on the merits -- with its attendant consequences on how trademark battles are fought -- can't be dismissed.
The circuit court--and apparently the Tax Court as well as the litigants concerned--had assumed without any qualms that the relevance and application of the tax benefit rule raised a pure question of law.
It goes further than the ADT appeal provisions in that the appellant does not need leave to raise an issue that goes to the merits but is not a question of law.
A further appeal to the SCC by either a defendant or the Crown on a question of law alone exists as a matter of right, under the Code, where a judge of the provincial Court of Appeal dissents on a question of law.
Thus, an important threshold issue a court of appeals must resolve is whether the matter before it is a question of law or fact.
1) the ruling involves a controlling question of law or policy as to which substantial grounds exist for a difference of opinion;
The colloquium focused on the question of law reform in the energy sector and the 34 internationally-authored papers resulting are organized into section dealing with sustainable development and the role of energy law, legal issues in contemporary energy law, international energy law, comparative energy law, electricity restructuring, financing for sustainable energy, and civil society and the procedural requirements of energy law for sustainable development.
Whether that act constitutes "employment misconduct" is a question of law.
Review is necessary in order to settle an important question of law.
In this case the issue was the proper method of valuation, a question of law, which the appeals court can review.
In California, the courts hold that "[w]hether or not to give any particular instruction in any particular case entails the resolution of a mixed question of law and fact that, we believe, is .
A person researching some question of law ought to be able to quickly and easily derive an answer with certainty.