In the US, juries decide facts, judges interpret the law
Posted May 8, 2012 7:56 UTC (Tue) by farnz
In reply to: In the US, juries decide facts, judges interpret the law
Parent article: Google guilty of infringement in Oracle trial; future legal headaches loom
Note also that it's clear that Judge Alsup is conducting this trial with a view to a possible appeal.
By getting the jury to determine facts that may become irrelevant depending on how he decides the law, he's set up to avoid having to reconvene a jury trial with a new jury in the event that the appeals court tells him he made a mistake in his interpretation of the law.
From the outside, it looks like Judge Alsup is very aware of how important any precedent set as a result of this case will be, and doesn't want questions of fact distracting the appeals courts from the questions of law.
As a nice side effect (and I think he's considered this, too) it ensures that when the appeals court is asked to rule on matters of law, it's not completely abstract; the appeals court will be able to look at their decision in the light of a real jury's findings, and will be aware of the full implications of their decision - there won't be any "well, this is how the world should be, because I expect a jury would obviously see this case as fair use" in the appeals world.
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