ALCALDE. The alcalde, the most important official in the Spanish municipality, acted not only as the chief executive in a Spanish town, but also functioned as a judge of minor cases and as the head of the ayuntamiento, or town council. His responsibilities combined components of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. One of his primary duties was to act as a judge. Though his judicial authority was limited to lesser civil and criminal issues, in practice he handled most judicial matters occurring within the limits of his jurisdiction. The major exceptions to this were those cases involving military or ecclesiastical courts. Most alcaldes lacked any formal training in the law and generally relied on unwritten Spanish tradition to resolve disputes. The decisions reached by the alcalde were not final and could be appealed to the ayuntamiento, the justicia mayor, who served as chief assistant to the governor, or to the governor himself.
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