The legal system is based on continental European principles. Although the jury system has been used in criminal cases for more than 100 years, there is a general tendency away from the use of juries. The Supreme Federal Court is composed of 11 justices, chosen by the president with Senate approval, who serve until age 70. It has final jurisdiction, especially in cases involving constitutional precepts and the acts of state and local authorities. The Federal Appeals Court deals with cases involving the federal government. Immediately below it are federal courts located in the state capitals and in the Federal District, as well as military and labor courts. Codes of criminal, civil, and commercial law are enacted by Congress, but in order to preserve the jurisdiction of state courts, the federal courts will not accept original jurisdiction solely because a law of Congress is involved. Electoral tribunals deal with registration of political parties, supervision of voting, infractions of electoral laws, and related matters.
Each state and municipality has its own judicial system. Justices of the peace and magistrates deal with commercial and other civil cases of the first instance. Decisions from state or municipal courts may be appealed to the federal courts and on up to the Supreme Federal Court.
There is also a system of specialized courts dealing with police, juveniles, and family matters.
The judiciary is independent from the executive and legislative branches. Judges are appointed for life and may not accept other employment.
Criminal defendants have a right to counsel.