Question of Law or Fact?

By Schonauer Law on Feb 09, 2015 at 09:12 AM in What Does it Mean
What is the difference between matters of law and fact? Here is the short answer

When you engage with the court, it is important to understand the court's duty and responsibilities.  This will enable you to understand your job in court, whether represented by counsel or not, and how you may assist the court in performing its duties.

Courts grapple with two major questions, questions of law and questions of fact.  A thorough discussion about the distinctions between the two would cover one-hundred pages and reference Sir Edward Coke’s tautological maxim; A question of law or a question of fact is a mere synonym for a judge question or a jury question.  We will be doing no Coke today.

Before we can question the “law” or the “facts” we must first understand what the law is.  The law is a body of principles and rules capable of being affirmed or asserted in advance.  It is static and independent of any outside acts, events, or conditions - aka facts.  To apply the law, the fact finder awaits proof of the facts necessary for the application.

Facts are events that have occurred or conditions that have existed.  Examples include the speed of a vehicle, words uttered, and how many shots were fired.  The fact finder is tasked with resolving disagreements about the facts.  The jury, if one is present, must evaluate the evidence presented and reconstruct what took place as it appeared to a fly on the wall.  If no jury is present, the judge serves as the fact finder.

How often does the fact finder get it wrong?  While studies have been done, this question is difficult to answer.  The fact finder gets it wrong at least sometimes, this we are certain.  If the fact finder decides the light was red, it is red, even if our crystal ball tells us otherwise; this is a legal fact.  The fact finder determines that the car was going 85 miles per hour, the defendant stated, “I do not intend to honor the contract”, and five shots were fired.

At a trial, a party must prove his or her alleged facts with evidence.  A party must also understand the law to know what facts must be proven, and once proven, what results when law is applied to the facts.

I am licensed in California only. The above information is based upon California Law. The above information is not based upon your particular facts, and as such is not legal advice. For a more complete information, based upon your particular situation, I advise that you consult with an attorney.