The 1992 constitution established a court system consisting of three levels of courts: (1) rural, city, and administrative courts, (2) circuit courts of appeal, and (3) the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court engages in constitutional review of legislation. At the rural and city courts, the decisions are made by a majority vote with a judge and two lay members. There are 2 city courts, 14 county courts, and 4 administrative courts in Estonia (20 courts of first instance). The Supreme Court has 17 judges.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and the judiciary is independent in practice. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, nominated by the president and confirmed by the Riigikogu, nominates Supreme Court judges, whose nominations need to be confirmed by the Riigikogu. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court also nominates the lower court judges who are then appointed by the president. Judges are appointed for life.The 1992 interim criminal code abolishes a number of political and economic crimes under the former Soviet Criminal Code. A new criminal procedural code was adopted in 1994.
The constitution provides for a presumption of innocence, access to prosecution evidence, confrontation and cress-examination of witnesses and public trials.