The constitution vests federal jurisdiction in a High Court of Australia which consists of a chief justice and six associate justices appointed by the general governor. The High Court has the authority to conduct constitutional review of state and federal legislation and is the supreme authority on constitutional interpretation. The High Court also has original jurisdiction over interstate and international matters.
Until 1985, in certain cases involving state law, appeals from courts below the High Court could be taken to the Privy Council in the United Kingdom, the final court of the Commonwealth of Nations. Special cases may be referred to a 25-member federal court that deals with commercial law, copyright law, taxation, and trade practices. There is also a family court.
States and territories have their own court systems. Cases in the first instance are tried in local or circuit courts of general and petty sessions, magistrates' courts, children's courts, or higher state courts. Capital crimes are tried before state supreme courts.
The state and federal courts are fully independent. The High Court has recently ruled that indigent defendants have a right to counsel at state expense. Criminal defendants are presumed innocent, and a plethora of due process rights include the right to confront witnesses and the right to appeal.
The law provides for the right to a fair trial. In local courts, the magistrates sit alone. In the higher courts, trials are usually conducted by judge and jury. The law prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence.