RunSensible’s Legal Dictionary

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Legal Dictionary

Question of Law

In legal proceedings, a “question of law” pertains to an issue or conflict that involves the interpretation or application of the law, instead of a dispute over facts. In contrast, a “question of fact” involves determining what actually happened in a case. Typically, judges decide questions of law, while juries resolve questions of fact.

Here are some essential points to remember about questions of law in legal proceedings:

  1. Interpretation of Statutes and Regulations: One common type of question of law arises when there is a disagreement over the interpretation of a statute, regulation, or other legal provision. The judge must analyze the language of the law and determine its meaning.
  2. Legal Precedent: Questions of law often involve the application of legal precedent. Judges may look at previous decisions in similar cases to guide their interpretation and application of the law.
  3. Summary Judgment: In some cases, if there is no genuine dispute over the material facts of a case, a party may file a motion for summary judgment. This motion argues that there is no need for a trial because the legal issues can be decided by the judge based on undisputed facts.
  4. Legal Arguments: Attorneys present legal arguments to support their positions on questions of law. These arguments involve citing relevant statutes, regulations, case law, and legal principles to persuade the judge to rule in their favor.
  5. Appellate Review: Decisions on questions of law can be appealed to a higher court. Appellate courts focus on reviewing legal issues rather than re-examining the facts of the case.
  6. De Novo Review: In some cases, an appellate court may conduct a de novo review of a question of law. This means that the court reviews the legal issue without giving deference to the lower court’s decision.
  7. Legal Briefs: Attorneys often submit legal briefs to the court, outlining their arguments on questions of law. These briefs provide a written presentation of the legal issues and authorities that support each party’s position.

The distinction between questions of law and questions of fact can sometimes be nuanced, and in some cases, both may be present in a legal dispute. Judges play a crucial role in determining which issues fall into each category and, consequently, which issues will be decided by the court, and which will be left to the trier of fact.

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