The judicial system follows British practice, with some local variations. Cases may be brought in the first instance before a lay magistrate (justice of the peace), a magistrate, or a judge in the Supreme Court, according to the seriousness of the offense or the amount of property involved. The Supreme Court also has appellate jurisdiction. Final appeal rests with the seven-member Court of Appeals, appointed on the advice of the prime minister in consultation with the leader of the opposition. The attorney general, who need not be a member of parliament, is appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister. The constitution gives power to the Court of Appeal and the parliament to refer cases to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the United Kingdom. However, Jamaica was among the eight nations (Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago) whose leaders met in Kingston on 9 June 2003 to ratify a treaty to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The first session of the CCJ was scheduled for November 2003.
A special "gun court" considers cases involving the illegal use or possession of firearms or ammunition.
The judiciary is independent but is overburdened and backlogged because of a lack of trained personnel. Recent increases in salaries, training programs for judicial personnel, and improvement in court facilities may eventually serve to improve efficiency and processing of cases. In 1995, to reduce the backlog of cases, the government initiated a night court, but little progress has been achieved almost eight years after the reform.