Kangaroo court

Kangaroo court

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A kangaroo court is "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted".

The outcome of a trial by kangaroo court is essentially determined in advance, usually for the purpose of ensuring conviction, either by going through the motions of manipulated
Psychological manipulation
Psychological manipulation is a type of social influence that aims to change the perception or behavior of others through underhanded, deceptive, or even abusive tactics. By advancing the interests of the manipulator, often at the other's expense, such methods could be considered exploitative,...

 procedure or by allowing no defense at all. A kangaroo court's proceedings deny, hinder or obstruct due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

 rights in the name of expediency. Typically, a kangaroo court will deliberately abuse one or more of the following rights of the accused:
  • right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty
  • right to control one's own defense e.g. selecting one's own defense counsel
  • right to hear a full and precise statement of the charges made against the accused
  • right to have adequate time and resources to prepare a defense against the charges
  • right not to incriminate oneself
  • right to summon witnesses
  • right of cross-examination
  • right to introduce evidence which supports acquittal of the accused
  • right to exclude evidence that is improperly obtained, irrelevant or inherently inadmissible, e.g., hearsay
    Hearsay
    Hearsay is information gathered by one person from another person concerning some event, condition, or thing of which the first person had no direct experience. When submitted as evidence, such statements are called hearsay evidence. As a legal term, "hearsay" can also have the narrower meaning of...

  • right not to be tried on secret evidence
  • right to exclude judges or jurors on the grounds of partiality, prejudice or conflict of interest
  • right to have a verbatim
    Verbatim
    Verbatim may refer to:*Verbatim Latin - the term "Verbatim" means, in a UK legal context: "word by word, exactly"*Verbatim Corporation, a US company that markets storage media and flash memory*Verbatim , a magazine edited by Erin McKean...

     stenographic record of the trial proceedings created
  • right to have no interference or undue influence made by external agencies e.g. political or military leaders
  • right of appeal against conviction

Etymology


The term kangaroo court may have been popularized during the California Gold Rush
California Gold Rush
The California Gold Rush began on January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands , and Latin America, who were the first to start flocking to...

 of 1849. The first recorded use is from 1853 in a Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 context. It comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps", like a kangaroo
Kangaroo
A kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae . In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus, Red Kangaroo, Antilopine Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Western Grey Kangaroo. Kangaroos are endemic to the country...

. The phrase is considered an Americanism
Americanism
Americanism may refer to:* Americanization* A word or phrase considered typical of American English, English as spoken in the United States* An attitude or conviction which gives special importance to the nation, national interest, political system, or culture of the United States* Americanism ,...

.

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
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

 is not impartial and refuses to be recused
Recusal
Judicial disqualification, also referred to as recusal, refers to the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer. Applicable statutes or canons of ethics may provide...

.

It may also be an elaborately scripted event intended to appear fair while having the outcome predetermined from the start. Terms meaning "show trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

", like the German Schauprozess, indicate the result is fixed before (usually guilty): the "trial" is just for show. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's kangaroo trials against his enemies, whom he labeled enemies of the people, were notorious, notably in the context of the Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

.

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.

Following the January 25 Revolution in Egypt in 2011
2011 Egyptian revolution
The 2011 Egyptian revolution took place following a popular uprising that began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011 and is still continuing as of November 2011. The uprising was mainly a campaign of non-violent civil resistance, which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil...

, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces used military trials to obtain convictions of civilians in possibly over 10,000 trials that lasted on average 20 minutes, and in some cases lasting only a few minutes.

Examples of show trials

  • Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Stalin
    Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

    's Show Trials in 1936, 1937 and 1938, where the accused were being tortured to confess, in the context of the Great Purge
    Great Purge
    The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

    .
  • The Nazi
    Nazi Germany
    Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

     Volksgerichtshof trials of the 20 July plot collaborators, who attempted to assassinate Hitler
    Adolf Hitler
    Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

    . The accused were stripped of their belts to appear pathetic before the audience, having to hold up their pants. The judge, Roland Freisler, a fanatical Nazi, shouted furious insults at the accused throughout the trial, which was filmed for propaganda
    Propaganda
    Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

     purposes.

As informal proceedings in sports


The term is sometimes used without any negative connotation. For example, many Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is the highest level of professional baseball in the United States and Canada, consisting of teams that play in the National League and the American League...

 teams have a kangaroo court to punish players for error
Error (baseball)
In baseball statistics, an error is the act, in the judgment of the official scorer, of a fielder misplaying a ball in a manner that allows a batter or baserunner to reach one or more additional bases, when such an advance would have been prevented given ordinary effort by the fielder.The term ...

s and other mistakes on the field, as well as for being late for a game or 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
Charitable organization
A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization . It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A charitable organization is a type of non-profit organization (NPO). It differs from other types of NPOs in that it centers on philanthropic goals A...

. The organization may also use the money for a team party at the end of the season.

This type of kangaroo court is common in Rugby Union teams and clubs in the West where fines are given at the end of a tour or season. The fines are dealt with either by forfeits or tasks.

In 1975, the Cleveland Indians
Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians are a professional baseball team based in Cleveland, Ohio. They are in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's American League. Since , they have played in Progressive Field. The team's spring training facility is in Goodyear, Arizona...

 of the American League
American League
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply the American League , is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major...

 held a kangaroo court where players were fined one dollar for silly offenses, and the New York Yankees
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are a professional baseball team based in the The Bronx, New York. They compete in Major League Baseball in the American League's East Division...

 players have held several such mock "courts" in their clubhouse throughout the team's history.

Professional sport governing bodies including FIFA and the English FA have also been regularly known to run their disciplinary procedures for officials, players and clubs/nations under such conditions

See also


  • Drumhead court-martial
    Drumhead court-martial
    A drumhead court-martial is a court-martial held in the field to hear urgent charges of offences committed in action. The term is said to originate from the use of a drumhead as an improvised writing table, altar for religious services, and a traditional gathering point for a regiment for orders...

  • Legal abuse
    Legal abuse
    Legal abuse refers to abuses associated with both civil and criminal legal action. Abuse can originate from nearly any part of the legal system, including frivolous and vexatious litigants, abuses by law enforcement, incompetent, careless or corrupt attorneys and misconduct from the judiciary...

  • Lynching
    Lynching
    Lynching is an extrajudicial execution carried out by a mob, often by hanging, but also by burning at the stake or shooting, in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate, control, or otherwise manipulate a population of people. It is related to other means of social control that...

  • Paths of Glory
    Paths of Glory
    Paths of Glory is a 1957 American anti-war film by Stanley Kubrick based on the novel of the same name by Humphrey Cobb. Set during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commanding officer of French soldiers who refused to continue a suicidal attack...

  • Setting up to fail
    Setting up to fail
    Setting up to fail is a psychological manipulation performed on a target in which the target is given a task which is designed to fail as it has an unrealistic objective - "the setting of impossible objectives... set up to fail". The target will become stressed trying to achieve the impossible,...

  • Star Chamber
    Star Chamber
    The Star Chamber was an English court of law that sat at the royal Palace of Westminster until 1641. It was made up of Privy Counsellors, as well as common-law judges and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters...

  • War trials
    War crime
    War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict giving rise to individual criminal responsibility...

  • Meir Tobianski
    Meir Tobianski
    Meir Tobianski also Tubianski was an officer in the Israel Defense Forces who was executed as a traitor on circumstantial evidence on the orders of Isser Be'eri, the first director of the IDF's intelligence branch...

  • Ontario Human Rights Commission
    Ontario Human Rights Commission
    The Ontario Human Rights Commission was established in the Canadian province of Ontario on March 29, 1961 to administer the Ontario Human Rights Code...

  • Show trial
    Show trial
    The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...


External links