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 ?
Defining what a question of law is and how it relates to issues of 'public importance' the court ruled that a mere inter-party dispute which doesn't entail questions of law, as defined by the court, will not attract the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under the said article.
Most commonly, de novo review applies in cases involving questions of law arising from undisputed facts because the legal issue presented by the evidence is essentially a question of law. (15) A primary example is that Florida's appellate courts review a ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim de novo.
The learned counsel for the appellant has argued that issue of limitation is a mixed question of law and fact and could not be decided without recording of evidence of the parties, but the learned Tribunal without adverting to the said aspect has erred in law and non-suited the appellant on the point of limitation while omitting to consider that the claim was initially entertained before the Insurance Company within the stipulated period, who repudiated the said claim in an arbitrary manner without affording opportunity of hearing to the appellant to prove her claim and the period consumed by the said company is liable to be excluded, but the said question having not been discussed in the verdict of Full Bench of this Court reported as Mst.
Related: 6 tips to prevent construction worksite fall and asbestos exposure risks Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, writing for the court, said the issue could not be completely addressed in a question of law.
That doesn't happen when the issue is a question of law, Hargis argues, and, as noted above, some circuits characterize likelihood of confusion as a question of law.
The opinion nods toward Stone's view by characterizing as a reviewable "clear-cut question of law" whether "applicable statutes and regulations properly interpreted forbid" the Tax Court's ruling.
In the period 1999-2005 the Appeal Panel adopted the view that, normally, an appellant needed to identify a question of law involving an error before consideration would be given to extending the appeal to the merits.
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.
A SELECTION of readers' views on the question of law and order gave overwhelming support to the further use of violence and not its prevention.
Dr Babar said that the question of law was involved in the case and it was only the domain of court to interpret it.
Beyond a SCAC, a defendant or the Crown can appeal to the Court of Appeal of the province on a question of law alone, with leave of the Court of Appeal.