The accord signed on 26 November 1974 between the Portuguese government and the MLSTP served as the legal code in the islands until 12 December 1975, when the new constitution was formally implemented. The highest court is the Supreme Tribunal, which is named by and responsible to the People's Assembly.
The constitution affords litigants in civil cases the right to a fair public trial and a right to appeal. It affords criminal defendants a public trial before a judge as well as legal representation. A shortage of trained lawyers, however, makes implementing this right difficult.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the judiciary acts independently from the government. The legal system is based on Portuguese law and customary law.