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 ?
Seeing these matters involve pure questions of law, the appeal is deemed improper and the dismissal thereof becomes the unavoidable outcome.
Such review of a judicial as distinguished from a legislative or administrative determination may be had as to either questions of law or fact.
Now the usual Appeal Panel practice is to ask parties first to deal with any questions of law, so that the Appeal Panel may take into account the strength or otherwise of that case before considering the application to extend to the merits.
The proceedings were removed from the Employment Relations Authority to the Employment Court last year, as authority member Paul Stapp said important questions of law were likely to arise and the case was of public interest.
39) The standards of review applicable at the provincial Court of Appeal would remain correctness on questions of law, and reasonableness on questions of fact (40) (although other equivalent phrasings, such as "palpable and overriding error" are often used to describe the standard of review on questions of fact).
Contents Introduction General Procedural Framework for Judicial Review History Hobbs Act The Petition for Review Stay of Deportation Standard of Review Jurisdictional Bars on Judicial Review Judicial Review Generally Available Expedited Removal Orders Denials of Discretionary Relief Orders Against Criminal Aliens Prosecutorial Discretion Detention Decisions Exceptions to the Jurisdictional Bars Constitutional Claims and Questions of Law Habeas Corpus
The judgement states "administrative bodies empowered to decide questions of law may presumptively go beyond the bounds of their enabling statute and decide issues of common law or statutory interpretation that arise in the course of a case properly before them, subject to judicial review on the appropriate standard.
But complex questions of law were raised over the correct route of appeal and whether the crown court had jurisdiction to hear the case.
Preemption is a complete defense to liability on questions of law, and the importance of defeating federal preemption cannot be overstated.
Her vision of the history of the family includes questions of law, labor, commerce, governance, sexuality, and archival practices, but one wonders whether the rubric of the history of family can or should be broad enough to accommodate her scope.
If given the go-ahead they would ask the highest court in the land to answer two questions of law - one of which relates to whether it is an offence "for a person in England and Wales to incite a foreign national in England and Wales to commit murder abroad".
There are proposals to create another to deal with questions of law connected to the Community Patent, however these have so far come to nothing because of the lack of consensus on the proposed patent regime.