District magistrates were established with the protectorate in 1892, and a simple code of law based on mission legislation and traditional councils has been observed by native courts. Eight island courts were constituted in 1965 to deal with land disputes, among other local matters. In 1975 a High Court of Justice was set up to hear appeals from district courts. Appeals from the High Court may go to the Court of Appeals in Fiji and ultimately to the UK Privy Council in London.
The right to a fair public trial is respected in practice. Services of the public defender are available to all Tuvaluans free of charge. Defendants have the right to confront witnesses, present evidence, and to appeal. The judiciary is independent and free of governmental interference.