The Audiencia was an appellate high court established after 1511 by the Spanish monarchs in their American territories, where it became a powerful and influential institution. It had from three to six oidores (judges) whose main duty was to oversee all legal cases brought to them by minor courts or local officials. However, these Audiencias also had administrative and legislative powers whenever a viceroy, a captain general, or governor was absent from the territory or when these officials came in conflict with the crown. These officials, advised by counsel, presided over the Audiencias in their territories.

Eighteen Audiencias were created in the Americas over 300 years. The last one was decreed for Puerto Rico in 1831 by King Ferdinand VII. Gerardo Carlo Altieri postulates that its creation was forced by the island’s increasing population and growing wealth and was due to Spain’s fear of losing Puerto Rico. Before 1831, all...

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