The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. The judiciary is susceptible to being influenced by the executive branch in practice. Magistrates are appointed by the president upon recommendation of the Supreme Council of the Magistracy; its members are drawn from the Department of Justice and the courts of appeal and cassation. In 2003, there were 51 cantonal courts, 23 courts of first instance, and 3 courts of appeal, located in Tunis, Sousse, and Sfax. A Court of Cassation in Tunis has three civil sections and one criminal section; it acts as the ultimate court of appeal. In addition, a High Court is constituted for the sole purpose of prosecuting a member of the government accused of high treason. The Council of State is an administrative tribunal empowered to resolve conflicts between citizens and the state and public authorities; as an accounting department, it is empowered to audit and examine government records.
Civil and criminal law generally follows French-influenced practices that evolved during the period of the protectorate. Since 1956 there has been a steady reform of existing Islamic legislation, including the abolition of polygamy. Shari'ah courts were abolished in 1956.
A military tribunal consisting of a presiding civilian judge from the Court of Cassation and four military judges hears cases involving military personnel as well as cases concerning civilians when national security is deemed to be at stake. Decisions of the military tribunal may be appealed to the Court of Cassation.