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Oidor, a judge of an audiencia. Oidores were the judges of the audiencias in the New World. After the appointment of alcaldes del crimen (judges whose responsibilities were limited to criminal cases), to the courts in Lima and Mexico City in 1568, the oidores on those tribunals were limited to civil cases. Prior to this date and in the other audiencias, they heard both civil and criminal cases.

While their judicial duties are best known, oidores also had legislative and executive responsibilities. They formed the core of the Acuerdo and thus participated in making political decisions. Regularly they were appointed by the region's chief executive to serve on commissions making inspection tours of the region or to serve as the judge of a corporate body.

By virtue of their high office, oidores were part of the elite in the capital where they served and, consequently, became attractive marital partners. Many obtained dispensations from restrictive legislation in order to marry local women of prestigious and well-to-do families and became directly involved in the local economy. When the crown sold audiencia appointments from 1687 to 1750, numerous Americans purchased appointments as oidores along with dispensations allowing them to marry and invest locally.

Unlike viceroys and other chief executives who were named for a specified term in office, oidores served at the pleasure of the king, occasionally for more than forty years. Since typically a viceregal audiencia had oidores who had served for years before the arrival of a new viceroy, the new executive could ignore their advice only at his peril.

See alsoJudicial Systems: Spanish America .


Recopilación de leyes de los reynos de las Indias, 4 vols. (1681; repr. 1973), libro II, título XVI; Mark A. Burkholder and D. S. Chandler, Biographical Dictionary of Audiencia Ministers in the Americas, 1687–1821 (1982).

Additional Bibliography

Barrios, Feliciano. El gobierno de un mundo: Virreinatos y audiencias en la América hispánica. Cuenca: Ediciones de la Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha: Fundación Rafael del Pino, 2004.

Hawkins, Timothy. José De Bustamante and Central American Independence: Colonial Administration in an Age of Imperial Crisis. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2004.

Sanciñena Asurmendi, Teresa. La audiencia en México en el reinado de Carlos III. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1999.

                                  Mark A. Burkholder