The court system, until 2001, remained similar to that which existed under the former Soviet regime. In July 2001, a series of laws was passed designed to bring existing legislation regarding the judiciary and the administration of justice more in line with the requirements for an independent judiciary. The three levels of courts are rayon (also known as regional or people's courts), oblast (provincial) courts, and the Supreme Court. All three levels serve as courts of first instance, the choice of level varying with the severity of the crime. A case heard in first instance at the rayon level can be appealed through the next two higher stages. A case heard in first instance in the Supreme Court is not subject to appeal or review. A 1992 law added a Constitutional Court to the existing system. The Constitutional Court consists of 18 members appointed for 9-year terms. It is the final interpreter of legislation and the constitution, and it determines the constitutionality of legislation, presidential edicts, cabinet acts, and acts of the Crimean autonomous republic.
The Rada (Supreme Council) selects judges on recommendation from the Ministry of Justice based partly upon government test results. Oblast and Supreme Court judges must have five years of experience in order to be appointed and may not be members of political parties.
A new constitution, adopted in 1996, provides that the judiciary is funded separately from the Ministry of Justice to ensure an independent judiciary. Because the courts are funded by the Ministry of Justice, however, they have been subject to executive influence, and have suffered from corruption and inefficiency.