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A kangaroo court or kangaroo trial, sometimes likened to a drumhead court-martial, refers to a sham legal proceeding or court. The colloquial phrase "kangaroo court" is used to describe judicial proceedings that deny due process rights in the name of expediency. Such rights include the right to summon witnesses, the right of cross-examination, the right not to incriminate oneself, the right not to be tried on secret evidence, the right to control one's own defense, the right to exclude evidence that is improperly obtained, irrelevant or inherently inadmissible, e.g., hearsay, the right to exclude judges or jurors on the grounds of partiality or conflict of interest, and the right of appeal. The outcome of a trial by "kangaroo court" is essentially determined in advance, usually for the purpose of providing a conviction, either by going through the motions of manipulated procedure or by allowing no defense at all.



The term "kangaroo court" may have been popularized during the California Gold Rush of 1849. The first recorded use is from 1853 in a Texas context.[1] It comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps", like a kangaroo.[1] Despite the association of kangaroos with Australia, the phrase is considered an Americanism.[1]

Mock justice

The term is often applied to courts subjectively judged as such, while others consider the court to be legitimate and legal. A kangaroo court may be a court that has had its integrity compromised; for example, if the judge is not impartial and refuses to be recused.

It may also be an elaborately scripted event intended to appear fair while having the outcome predetermined from the start. Terms meaning "show trial", like the German Schauprozess, indicate the result is fixed before (usually guilty): the "trial" is just for show. Notorious were Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's kangaroo trials against his enemies, whom he labeled enemies of the people, notably in the context of the Great Purge.

In 2008, Singapore’s Attorney-General applied to the High Court to commence contempt proceedings against three individuals who appeared in the new Supreme Court building wearing identical white T-shirts bearing a palm-sized picture of a kangaroo dressed in a judge’s gown.[2]

Other usage in sports

The term is sometimes used without any negative connotation. For example, many Major League Baseball teams have a kangaroo court to punish players for errors and other mistakes on the field, as well as for being late for a game/practice, not wearing proper attire to road games, or having a messy locker in the clubhouse. Fines are allotted, and at the end of the year, the money collected is given to charity. The organization may also use the money for a team party at the end of the season.[3]

This type of kangaroo court is common in Rugby Union teams and clubs in the western world where fines are given at the end of a tour or season. The fines are dealt with either by forfeits or tasks. This usually entails large amounts of alcohol as punishment.

In 1975, the Cleveland Indians of the American League had a Kangaroo Court where players were fined one dollar for silly offenses,[4] and the New York Yankees players have held several such mock "courts" in their clubhouse throughout the team's history.

See also



  1. ^ a b c "kangaroo court"
  2. ^
  3. ^ Bouton, Jim (1990). Ball Four (2nd ed. ed.). Wiley. ISBN 0-0203-0665-2.  
  4. ^ Frank Robinson-The Making of a Manager by Cleveland Plain Dealer sports writer Russell Schneider


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