Dominica's judicial process derives from English common law and statutory acts of the House of Assembly. The courts of first instance are the four magistrates' courts; at the second level is the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. The highest court is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, based in St. Lucia, and one of its six judges must reside in Dominica and preside over the Court of Summary Jurisdiction. In exceptional cases prior to 2003, appeals were carried to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom.
On 9 June 2003, Caribbean leaders met in Kingston, Jamaica, to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The first session of the CCJ was scheduled for November 2003. Eight nations—Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago—had officially approved the CCJ, although a total of 14 nations were planning to use the court for appeals. Haiti had agreed to use the CCJ for resolution of trade disputes.
The law provides for public trial before an independent, impartial court. Criminal defendants have the right to legal counsel, and to appeal.