Kangaroo trial

For the song by Capital Cities, see Kangaroo Court (song). For the EP by Ritual, see Ritual (band).

A kangaroo court is "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted".[1]


There is some debate over the origin of the term kangaroo court, but some sources suggest that it may have been popularized during the California Gold Rush of 1849, as a description of the hastily carried-out proceedings used to deal with the issue of claim jumping miners.[2] Other sources claim that the term comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps", like a kangaroo.[3] Some have suggested that the phrase could refer to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone's pocket. The phrase is considered an Americanism and is still in common use.[4]

As informal proceedings 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 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. The organization may also use the money for a team party at the end of the season.[5]

As formal disciplinary proceedings in sports

The term is at times applied with a measure of disdain to describe the lack of procedure towards maintaining discipline within amateur sporting circles.
A recent example of this was the controversial suspension of Joel Booth from Australia's Victorian Business Houses Basketball Association (VBHBA) based at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, Albert Park, Victoria. In September 2013, Booth was offered a baseless penalty of two weeks for bumping another player in retaliation after being punched at the conclusion of a match. The alternative to accepting the two week ban was to appear before the "Albert Park Tribunal". This was not much of an alternative as Booth was informally guaranteed by league officials that he would receive a ten week suspension should he decline the two weeks offered, regardless of how he argued his defence at tribunal. Furthermore the matter was guaranteed to go before the tribunal and incur the threatened ten week penalty if Booth insisted on seeing a copy of the report, which hadn't been written up at the time he was offered the two week ban. This was a case of the league undertaking an AFL style system of discounted penalties in exchange for early pleas, but without any underlying formula having been set in place for determining what penalties are applied to different offenses.
Booth begrudgingly accepted the penalty despite the obvious evidence in his favor. He was noted as describing their tribunal system as a "Kangaroo Court", which most of those present at the time agreed to be an apt description.
On a loosely related side note, this matter continued a poor track record by the official involved, referee David Jackson, who had previously ejected Booth from another match within the first three minutes for fighting. This despite Booth having not raised anything other than his voice towards his combatant on that occasion. However in the "Kangaroo Court" environment at VBHBA, Booth was assured by league officials that Jackson has been voted as the league's best referee, allowing little room for any argument over Jackson's decision making credentials.

See also


External links

  • Etymology Online
  • The Straight Dope: What's the origin of "kangaroo court"?
  • What's a Kangaroo Court?
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