The judicial yuan is Taiwan's highest judicial organ. It interprets the constitution and other laws and decrees, adjudicates administrative suits, and disciplines public functionaries. The president and vice president of the judicial yuan are nominated and appointed by the president of the republic, with the consent of the legislative yuan. They, together with 15 grand justices, form the Council of Grand Justices, which is charged with the power and responsibility of interpreting the constitution, laws, and ordinances. The judicial system is based on the principle of three trials in three grades of courts: district court, high court, and supreme court. The Supreme Court, the highest tribunal of the land, consists of a number of civil and criminal divisions, each of which is formed by a presiding judge and four associate judges. The judges are appointed for life.
In 1993 a separate constitution court was established. Staffed by the then-16 grand justices of the judicial yuan, but with the judicial yuan excluded from the court, the new court was charged with resolving constitutional disputes, regulating the activities of political parties and accelerating the democratization process.
There is no right to trial by jury, but the right to a fair public trial is protected by law and respected in practice. Defendants are afforded a right to counsel and to a right to appeal to the High Court and the Supreme Court in cases in which the sentence exceeds three years. Those sentenced to three years or less may appeal only to the High Court. The Supreme Court automatically reviews all sentences to life imprisonment or death. There is also an administrative court.
The judicial system is based on civil law and Taiwan accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.