Matter of Law

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.

Matter of Law

That which is determined or ascertained through the use of statutes, rules, court decisions, and interpretations of legal principles.

In legal actions the term matter of law is used to define a particular area that is the responsibility of the court. Matter of law is distinguished from matter of fact. All questions concerning the determination of fact are for the jury, though a judge may determine the facts if a jury trial is waived or is not permitted under the law.

The designation of matters of law to the judge and matters of fact to the jury did not develop, however, until the late eighteenth century. Until that time a jury could exercise its judgment over matters of fact and law. Jury instructions, which in modern law are technical and specific about which law to apply, were informal and general. A jury was free to accept the instructions, modify them, or ignore them completely.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, courts had acquired authority over matters of law and confined juries to matters of fact. Commercial lawyers were particularly influential in bringing about this change, as greater judicial control over matters of law helped produce a stable legal system in which business could prosper.

Today courts rule on all matters of law, including pretrial motions, trial objections to the introduction of particular evidence or testimony, proposed jury instructions, and posttrial motions. Their decisions are based on statutes, rules of evidence and procedure, and the body of relevant case law.

When the facts in a civil action are not in dispute, one or both of the parties may request a court to make a Summary Judgment. Summary judgment is purely a matter of law; the court accepts the relevant facts as presented by the party opposing summary judgment and renders a decision based on the applicable legal principles.

A matter of law can be the basis for an appeal, but generally a matter of fact cannot. Though an appeals court can reverse a decision because of a mistaken matter of law, it will not reverse if the mistake did not affect the verdict. This "harmless error" rule developed, in part, from the recognition that during a trial the court often must make hundreds of decisions based on matters of law.

MATTER OF LAW, pleading. That which goes in avoidance of a declaration or other pleading, on the ground that the law does not authorize them. It does not deny the matter or fact contained in such pleading, but admitting them avoids them. Bac. Ab. Pleas, &c. G 3. Matter of law, is that which is referred to the decision of the court; matter of fact that which is submitted to the jury.

References in periodicals archive ?
xi) that, as a matter of law, a party is not entitled to any immunity from suit not otherwise addressed in this rule.
Section 162 operates as a matter of law regardless of the reporting by the other parties.
First, as a matter of law [emphasis added], the discharge decision met the standard of care for physicians.
The dissenting judge observed that although the existence of a duty is a matter of law for the courts to decide, a breach of duty is usually a matter left to the trier of fact.
The IRS argued that the "amount included in the employee's gross income" means the amount actually included on the return, while the employer argued it meant the amount included in gross income as a matter of law.
Attorney Cotton explained the Court of Appeals held that a violation of Local Law 1 serves only as some evidence of negligence and does not establish negligence as a matter of law.
At the close of the plaintiff's case-in-chief, the defendants renewed their motion for judgment as a matter of law.
Following a jury trial the district court granted judgment as a matter of law for some of the guards, and the jury subsequently found in favor of the remaining guards.
13 (2003), the Tax Court held, as a matter of law, that the economic benefit from below-market financing can be an amortizable intangible asset, if the taxpayer can establish a fair market value (FMV) and limited useful life.
The court's decision in Medtrans is significant because it held that an accountant's duty of care to a client can, as a matter of law, be based on professional standards rather than on rules of the law that are contrary to rules promulgated by the AICPA.