What is a Kangaroo Court?

A kangaroo court is a judicial tribunal or assembly that blatantly disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. Merriam-Webster defines it as "a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted". The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority who intentionally disregards the court's legal or ethical obligations.

A kangaroo court is often held to give the appearance of a fair and just trial, even though the verdict has in reality already been decided before the trial has begun. Such courts are typically run by authoritarian governments, and can also be found in rural areas where legitimate law enforcement may be limited.

I took that quote from Wikipedia that helps to define the term but characteristics help identify a Kangaroo court as opposed to a legitimate court system?

By this definition there are quite a few courts that I am sure do not belong as the categorization of this as such but based on this definition would seem to apply. Most notably the Supreme Court of the United states at times has made rulings that were completely contrary to the existing laws and the constitution. Similarly the US Federal Circuits have also had several rulings that even though superior courts agreed the court stepped outside the law in its decision have chosen not to overturn the decisions or have written decisions that have become defacto laws.

Why would these not be considered Kangaroo courts. What is it that I am missing from this definition that would make the courts of Saddam Hussien or Edi Amine Kangaroo courts?

  • 2
    You answered your own question. What don't you understand? May 29, 2015 at 20:11
  • 4
    It is a courtroom staffed entirely by marsupials from the family Macropodidae. It's right there in the title. What don't you understand? Jun 25, 2015 at 20:49
  • @ParthianShot that makes more sense than the Wiki... I fail to see why the courts of Saddam Hussein were any less legitimate than the US Supreme court. After all neither one really cares about the law.
    – Chad
    Jun 26, 2015 at 14:24
  • @Chad Well, Hussein gassed a few thousand of his own civillian citizenry to death, and committed genocide, and the courts didn't seem to care, so there's that. Jun 26, 2015 at 19:48
  • @ParthianShot I think if we are counting up number of citizens killed by their own country the US is likely to come up on the winning end (if you want bigger numbers) Not to mention the number of nukes we have set off, and we are the only country ever to have used a Nuke in combat... and we did it twice. The US has no room for throwing stones
    – Chad
    Jun 27, 2015 at 5:27

1 Answer 1


The answer is in the quote. When people talk about a kangaroo court, what they mean is that the legal process is for show; the actual decision is made on non-legal principles.

A kangaroo court may look just like any other court; the only exception might be that before the trial, the government meets with the judge or the jury and informs them that their verdict will be "guilty."

Of course, some kangaroo courts tip the scales in more obvious ways, but all that's necessary is that it not follow the law in a way that prejudices the defendant.

  • Or that the law is already so prejudiced against the defendant that a fair trial is impossible.
    – Flup
    May 28, 2015 at 16:46

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .