Understanding the Concept of a ‘Kangaroo Court’

A phrase often used in popular culture and legal circles, a ‘Kangaroo Court’ is an important concept to understand within the context of justice and legal proceedings. Contrary to traditional court procedures, a Kangaroo Court does not follow the established legal protocols, often resulting in biased proceedings and unjust outcomes.

The Origin of the Term ‘Kangaroo Court’

The phrase ‘Kangaroo Court’ originated in the 19th century during the Californian Gold Rush period. The term was used to refer to hastily set-up courts in mining camps that passed hasty and biased verdicts. The reference to ‘kangaroo’ is thought to be related to the unpredictable and speedy nature of kangaroos, reflecting the hasty and often irregular nature of these tribunals.

Inherent Characteristics of a Kangaroo Court

  • Bias: These courts are inherently biased, often favouring one party more than the other.
  • Disregard for Evidence: Evidence is often ignored, misconstrued, or cherrypicked to fit a predetermined narrative or verdict.
  • Violation of Rights: Accused individuals may not be given their legal rights, such as the right to a defense or fair trial.
  • No Legal Representation: Accused individuals are often not provided with legal representation.

Examples of Kangaroo Courts

A popular example of a Kangaroo Court in action is the infamous Salem Witch Trials, where many were accused without proper evidence and were denied fair trials. Another example is the show trials conducted by totalitarian regimes, specifically designed to achieve a specific result and promote a certain narrative rather than deliver justice.


In conclusion, a Kangaroo Court represents an abrogation of justice, often characterized by bias, disregard for evidence and procedural laws, and a violation of defendants’ rights. By understanding this concept, we can better appreciate the importance of the rule of law and due process in Administration of Justice.