The legal system is closely modeled on that of the United States. The 1984 constitution provides for the establishment of a Supreme Court consisting of a chief justice and four associate justices, to be appointed by the president from a panel recommended by a Judicial Service Commission. The consent of the senate is required for these appointments and for the confirmation of lower court judges, to which a similar procedure applies. In theory, cases originate in magistrates' courts and may be taken for appeal to one of 10 circuit courts or to the highest court. Serious cases originate in the circuit courts. Traditional courts are presided over by tribal chiefs. A labor court was created in 1986.
For many years, the judicial system has suffered from corruption and domination by the executive. By mid-1990 the system had collapsed and justice administration was co-opted by the military commanders of various factions. In 1991, the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNV), began to revive the court system in the Monrovia area. The National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) has also begun to reopen the courts in the areas under its control. Since 1997, donors have trained paralegals and human rights monitors to protect citizens up-country. The US Department of Justice has rebuilt magistrate courts, compiled 30 years of Supreme Court decisions, and published the Liberian Code so that judges and lawyers have recourse to legal reference works. However, the renewed outbreak of civil war has halted these efforts.