Spain's colonial rule rested on a judicial system that resolved conflicts and meted out justice. But just how was this legal order imposed throughout the New World? Cutter draws on over 600 civil and criminal cases to re-create the procedural and ethical workings of the law in two of Spain's remote colonies -- New Mexico and Texas in the eighteenth century. By examining colonial legal culture, Cutter reveals the attitudes of settlers, their notions of right and wrong, and how they fixed a boundary between proper and improper actions. Cutter challenges the traditional view that the legal system was inherently corrupt and irrelevant to the mass of society, and that local judicial officials were uninformed and inept. Instead he found that even in peripheral areas the lowest-level officials -- the alcalde or town magistrate -- had a greater impact on daily life and a keener understanding of the law than previously acknowledged by historians.