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 ?
Three questions of law were previously posed in M's case for the Federal Court to hear and decide on.
Seeing these matters involve pure questions of law, the appeal is deemed improper and the dismissal thereof becomes the unavoidable outcome.' Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Rodil Zalameda and Carmelita Salandanan Manahan.
Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was appearing for petitioners Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi, had placed before the bench the questions of law which were required to be dealt with in the matter.
As a Jew in 21st-century America, I have a basic sense that religion should be irrelevant to questions of law and justice.
Judge Thokozile Masipa, who convicted him and sentenced him to five years in jail, acknowledged that chief prosecutor Gerrie Nel had raised legitimate "questions of law" that should be studied by the appeals court.
Such review of a judicial as distinguished from a legislative or administrative determination may be had as to either questions of law or fact.
But such a petition can be filed only if a senior counsel certifies that the matter involves important questions of law.
In the past, if the tribunal statute gave any right of appeal it was typically outwards to a court and confined to questions of law.
A three-day hearing before three judges of the Employment Court will be held in Auckland on June 24-26 to answer a number of preliminary questions of law.
Kasuri said reasonable time is required for the case, as very significant questions of law are involved, and a huge number of files have to be gone through.
Part of a series examining issues surrounding disabilities in modern society, this volume explores questions of law, ethics, and policy surrounding disability rights and governmental regulations and programs.