Question of Law

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.
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 ?
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.
Peyrelevade contends that the June 6 Order involves a "controlling question of law or policy as to which substantial grounds exist for a difference of opinion.
Review is necessary to settle an important question of law.
36) Four other states hold that evidentiary rulings are in general discretionary but will be reviewed de novo to the extent a particular ruling "turns on a question of law," (37) "was [or was not] made in accordance with accepted legal standards," (38) "involves a misconception of the law," (39) or "turns on .
The bank says that whether it had an agreement with the Revenue Commissioners or not is a question of law and it is considering its position.
The court rejected the position of several former employees that the issue of partial termination was a question of law and therefore subject to de novo review by the court.
Since the question of guilt or innocence almost always involves a mixed question of law and fact, through rendering a general verdict as to guilt, the jury is the judge of the law insofar as it applies to specific facts.
The court held that claim construction - defining the scope of the allegedly infringed patent - is a question of law for courts to decide.
Applying innovative interpretive strategies drawn from cultural studies, this book considers the perennial question of law and politics: what role do the founding fathers play in legitimizing contemporary judicial review?
Contract award: legal advice related to legal representation and representation in connection with the question of law to the supreme court in proceedings related to the decision of the president of the energy regulatory office to refuse to issue certificates of origin.
The appeal on conviction is based on the question of law.
Question of Law Article 270 of the Omani Penal Code explains that anyone intentionally setting a fire in private or public enterprises, transportation, oil wells or residential or abandoned places, whether his own or others' properties, shall be punished with imprisonment from seven to 15 years.