Mainland Tanzanian law is a combination of British, East African customary law, and Islamic law. Local courts are presided over by appointed magistrates. They have limited jurisdiction, and there is a right of appeal to district courts, headed by either resident or district magistrates. Appeal can be made to the High Court, which consists of a chief justice and 17 judges appointed by the president. It has both civil and criminal jurisdiction over all persons and all matters. Appeals from the High Court can be made to the five-member Court of Appeal. Judges are appointed to the Court of Appeal and the High Court by the president on the advice of the chief justice and to courts at lower levels by the chief justice.
In 1985, the Zanzibar courts were made parallel to those of the mainland. Islamic courts handle some civil matters. Cases concerning the Zanzibar constitution are heard only in Zanzibar courts. All other cases may be appealed to the Court of Appeal of the Republic.
Although declared independent by the constitution, the judiciary is subject to executive branch influence and is criticized as inefficient and corrupt. Questions have been raised as to the availability of a fair trial in politically charged cases.