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What Is a Kangaroo Court?


Many informal or colloquial terms are used by the greater population in reference to legal terms or words that are considered to be more formal. Different instances or terms can also be known in slang terms. One slang term refers to a trial that has been judged unfairly or clearly goes against the spirit of the law. This slang term is called kangaroo court.


A Kangaroo court is often seen in relation to a pre-appointed or self-appointed tribunal that provides punishments or sentencing without due consideration or with haste. The slang term also refers to trials that have been considered to be biased in sentencing or has been noted to have a predetermined judgment. However, the use of the colloquial expression “kangaroo court” is considered to be a serious accusation. To call a court hearing a kangaroo court is to accuse the presiding judge or arbitrator as biased, unfair, or prejudice.


The use of the expression “kangaroo court” is widely popular only in the United States. The derivation of the slang term “kangaroo court” has no relation to Australia, but relates to the nature of a kangaroo as jumping into conclusions or punishments. The slang term may also have been derived from those who are considered “claim jumpers”—people who were usually charged in such trials.


A drumhead trial is most often considered as a kangaroo court since this type of court was frequently arranged in a battlefield and its outcomes were already predetermined. This was done in order to ensure that soldiers and officers continued with work immediately after a trial.

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