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A kangaroo court

  • is a sham legal proceeding or court. It may be a court that has had its integrity attacked, i.e., the impartiality of the judge who refuses to be recused.
  • It can be a derogatory term that may be used to describe the dispute resolution mechanism used by prison inmates to resolve disputes within the prison based upon the pecking order of the prisoners.
  • It can also be a positive term. For example, a baseball team might have a kangaroo court to punish players for errors and mistakes on the field. Fines are allotted, and at the end of the year, the money collected is given to charity.
  • Although it might be an obvious guess that the phrase was coined in Australia, it seems to have originated during the California Gold Rush, with the first written reference in 1853. It is possible that the phrase arose out of a synergistic combination of informal courts convened to deal with "claim jumpers," the many Australian participants in the Gold Rush and a bit of word play.  The real one





A Kangaroo Court is an American expression for a Sham Court, a court where you have no chance of winning. The trial is rigged against you and the rule of Law is thrown out the window. Beating a speeding ticket in one is near impossible.


Even though we believe that the USA is a Nation of Law and Justice it has exceptions. There are Sham courts across this country with corrupt Judges, Prosecutors and Police Officers.


My first encounter with a Kangaroo court was in 1969. Driving home to Canada in June, traveling along I-80 in Ohio I was stopped while driving the speed limit. The Officer pulled me over and informed me that since I had out of State plates on my car I had to go to Court immediately. He took me in his car and drove down some back alley in his hick town. There, on the back porch sat an old Lady with a bottle of Jack Daniels next to her and a sign reading JUSTICE of the PEACE.


She didn't say a word, she just handed me a piece of paper. It stated that there was a one mile section where I-80 passed through the incorporated area of this town. The State allowed this municipality speeding arrests in that area. The maximum fine the State allowed this municipality to charge for speeding in this designated area is $1 and the maximum court cost allowed is $23.50. Out of State drivers who plead Not Guilty will be detained in the town jail until a Court date can be arranged.      


          ($23.50 in 1969 is like $100 today)


I pled guilty. The cop drove me back to my car and on the way pulled over another driver with out of State plates, put him in the car with me, then dropped me off.


There still are sham courts in the USA. Some still as blatant as the one described above. Others are less obvious.


In general at a Sham or Kangaroo court you will find no prosecutor, only a Judge. The arresting officer and Judge are related. The court is in a Hick town in a rural area. In other situations, where there is a prosecutor,  you will know immediately by the way the evidence is presented. It will go something like this.


Prosecutor: Officer Buba, How did ya determine dat da felon be speedin?


Officer Buba: I's used my radar gun, you know da one we got from da State ten years ago. Da one Uncle Parker fixed up and made working again.


Prosecutor: Yo Honnah, da Prosicutation rests, da felon be guilty.


Judge:Guilty, now go pay Cousin Calera there the fine and court costs.


Not the Tipmra, no defense will work in a court like this. If you encounter one, pay the fine, lick your wounds and go on with your life. There is very little you can do about it.

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