The system of Muslim law (the Shari'ah ) was augmented by 1959 legislation that established courts of law, regulated the judicial system, and adopted modern legal codes. In each administrative district of Kuwait there is a summary court, composed of one or more divisions, each presided over by one judge. The summary courts deal with civil and commercial cases and leases. A tribunal of first instance has jurisdiction over matters involving personal status, civil and commercial cases, and criminal cases, except those of a religious nature, cases in which the amount involved exceeds KD 1,000. The High Court of Appeals is divided into two chambers, one with jurisdiction over appeals involving personal status and civil cases, the other over appeals involving commercial and criminal cases. State security court decisions may be appealed to the court of Cassation. Ordinary criminal cases may be appealed to the High Court of Appeals. The five-member Superior Constitutional Court is the highest level of the Kuwaiti judiciary. The Superior Constitutional Court interprets the constitution and deals with disputes related to the constitutionality of laws, statutes and by-laws. A military court handles offenses committed by members of the security forces. Religious courts, Sunni and Shi'a, decide family law matters, but there is also a separate domestic court for non-Muslims. There is no Shi'a appellate court. Shi'a cases are adjudicated by Sunni courts of appeals on appeal.
While the 1962 constitution guarantees an independent judiciary, the executive branch retains control over its administration and budget. The Emir, after recommendation of the Justice Ministry, appoints judges in the regular courts. Kuwaiti nationals receive lifetime appointments; non-Kuwaiti judges receive renewable terms of one to three years.
The constitution gives the authority to pardon and commute sentences to Emir. The Special State Security Court was abolished in 1995.