What Is A Kangaroo Court?

"Kangaroo court" is a term used to describe unfair treatment in the court system.
"Kangaroo court" is a term used to describe unfair treatment in the court system.

A kangaroo court is a term used to describe a judicial system that disregards the recognized standards of law or justice, which is biased against the defendant, and where the judgment against the accused is usually predetermined. Kangaroo courts do not follow for necessary court rules and procedures and are only conducted as a formality.

History Of Kangaroo Courts

The origin of the phrase “kangaroo court” is not known. However, while the kangaroo animal from which the term is named is only found in Australia, the origin of the phrase is not accurately traced to the continent. The earliest known written application of the term is found in a magazine written by American writer Philip Paxton around 1853 in his article “A Stray Yankee in Texas.” Some scholars believe that term is derived from the word “claim jumping” which was extensively used during the California Gold Rush which described the process of quickly carrying out proceedings where justice proceedings would “jump over” any evidence tabled by the defense. However, some scholars attribute the source of the term to Australian kangaroos where it implied a person having the court in his or her pocket.

Characteristics Of Kangaroo Courts

Kangaroo courts are notorious for their disregard of the phrase “innocent until proven guilty.” A common feature in all kangaroo courts is denying the accused of their rights. The rights denied the defendant include the right to control their defense. Another feature of these courts is denying the accused of their right to summon witnesses. The accused is also denied the right to appeal against the judgment by the court. The court also denies the accused the right not to be tried on secret evidence where such evidence can be absent from the hearings. The judgments of kangaroo courts are usually pre-determined with the court proceedings only conducted for show. The court is also known for the use of fantasy scenarios to implicate the accused. In several instances, the defendant is tortured before their trial and the torture is absent from court files. Another common characteristic of kangaroo courts is the writing of new laws for the intention of using the laws against the accused.

Examples Of Kangaroo Courts

Perhaps the earliest examples of kangaroo courts were those used in during the California Gold Rush. Other examples of kangaroo courts are the show trials which were common during the Stalin era in the Soviet Union. These show trials are commonly known as the "Moscow Trials" of the "Soviet Great Purge". The court proceedings involved shaping public opinion against the accused through massive newspaper campaigns funded by the government. The Nuremberg Trials were other forms of kangaroo courts. The Nuremberg trials were several military tribunals held after the Second World War by the Allies against the Nazis. These trials were heavily prejudiced against the Nazis which the Allies being accused of using torture to coerce the accused to plead guilty to their charges. Another example of kangaroo courts was during the Great Sedition Trial of 1994 where American nationalists were jailed for political inclinations.

Criticism Of The Kangaroo Courts

The use of kangaroo courts is heavily criticized by legal professionals who see these courts as having no space in the modern judicial system. The kangaroo court's nature of predetermined judgment is considered to be unfair to the accused who has no opportunity to prove their innocence.


More in Politics