A matter of law is an aspect of a case which must be evaluated in terms of the law, with the court deciding which aspect of the law applies and how it should be applied. Matters of law are the responsibility of the judge, not the jury, while matters of fact are decided by the jury or by the judge if a jury is not present. Making decisions about matters of law is an important part of trying a case in court.
The law includes statutes, case law, and written legal opinions. A judge can use all of these elements of the law in order to weigh a matter of law. For example, in a case where someone is being tried for robbery, the judge must consider the areas of the law which pertain to robbery to decide whether or not they apply to the case at hand and whether or not a robbery occurred at all. The jury, on the other hand, must listen to the facts presented in the case to decide whether or not the accused really committed the crime for which he or she is being tried.
Judges rely on their training and experience to make decisions about a matter of law when it arises. Attorneys on both sides can raise matters of law over the course of the trial to request an evaluation and consideration from the judge. Attorneys can approach the bench to ask that a judge consider the legal implications of an aspect of the case and they can also issue challenges asking that the judge strike down motions or evidence presented by the other side on legal grounds.
When people are preparing to appeal a verdict, one of the areas of the case which they scrutinize closely is the matters of law which were decided over the course of the case. It may not be possible to disputes the facts evaluated and determined by the jury, but sometimes a legal technicality can create an opening for appeal. For instance, if a judge ruled a piece of evidence inadmissible when it actually was allowable, this may be used as grounds to request a new trial in which this piece of evidence would be presented.
In some cases a judge does not have a previous body of law to rely upon when deciding a matter of law. In these instances the judge must issue an opinion on the matter which provides a legal justification for the action taken in regards to a matter of law.