Kangaroo court

中国日报网 2014-11-04 15:11



Kangaroo court

Reader question:

Please explain this sentence: “There is no justice in a kangaroo court.” Kangaroo court?

My comments:

There is no justice in a kangaroo court because you can’t expect to get a fair trial there.

A kangaroo court is a mock court that functions like a court but isn’t in fact the standard court where all manners of law and rules are followed.

In a kangaroo court, rules regarding what we know as due process are not strictly followed, or at least not followed in their entirety.

All you need to do is look into the origin of kangaroo courts to understand the concept perfectly.

First of all, “kangaroo court” is an idiom that’s American in origin, not Australian, even though kangaroos are found hopping around only in Australasia, or Down Under.

There are many explanations as to its origin, as a matter of fact, but the most plausible is that the kangaroo court refers to the roaming lawyers and judges presiding over legal disputes in the Gold Rush era of mid-19th century in the American Wild West. The lawyers moved from place to place looking for business as the gold diggers went from place to place looking for gold. Hence, they’re called kangaroos, the pouched animals who hop from place to place using their hind legs.

According to Phrase.org, the earliest known citation of the term is American, not Australian. It appears in a collection of magazine articles by Philip Paxton (the pen name of Samuel Adams Hammett), which were published in 1853 under the title of A stray Yankee in Texas:

“By a unanimous vote, Judge G-- was elected to the bench and the ‘Mestang’ or ‘Kangaroo Court’ regularly organized.”

To me, that kind of settles it. “Kangaroo court” is American because it was originally also known as the Mustang court, mustang being the American wild horse.

And the mustang pretty much sums up the other major characteristic of kangaroo courts, too.

Kangaroo courts are, to wit, wild and out of control.

Here are media examples of kangaroo court in the modern day:

1. Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron wants the City Council to back clemency for fugitive cop killer Joanne Chesimard - a move that triggered fury among police.

Chesimard was serving a life sentence for the 1973 execution-style murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster when several armed visitors helped her break out of prison in 1979. She now lives in Cuba under the name Assata Shakur.

Barron, a Democrat, said yesterday that he will introduce a resolution calling on President Bush to grant Shakur amnesty so she can return from “exile.”

“She’s innocent,” insisted Barron, noting that he met Chesimard in his late teens while he, too, was a Black Panther. “She was a victim, not a perpetrator. She was convicted on trumped-up charges in a kangaroo court.”

Chesimard was put on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists on May 1, and the U.S. Justice Department authorized a $1 million reward if she’s captured alive.

“This is outrageous, even by Councilman Barron’s standards,” fumed Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “Joanne Chesimard is a cold-blooded killer who viciously took the life of a state trooper.”

- Pol wants amnesty for exiled cop killer, New York Daily News, May 25, 2005.

2. It remains to be seen whether the House select committee to investigate the Benghazi will turn up any new information about the 2012 attacks that left four Americans dead. But with every day that passes it looks less and less likely the panel’s conclusions will be regarded as nonpartisan as Democrats and Republicans have spent the past week engaging in a fierce battle over which party is responsible for politicizing the tragedy.

Although the House formally approved the creation of the panel in a virtual party-line vote last Thursday (7 Democrats joined the entire Republican conference in voting for it), Democrats have yet to decide whether they will participate. On Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said her members were divided: some feared participating in a “kangaroo court,” while others think it is important to have at least one Democrat on the committee to monitor what the Republicans are doing.

Pelosi’s office is negotiating with staff to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to determine the conditions under which Democrats will participate. They are seeking Democratic input and concurrence on issuing subpoenas, decisions to depose witnesses, the release of any reports, documents or information by the committee, which was not guaranteed in a proposal offered by Boehner’s office Friday, they said.

“We’ve participated in all the other seven investigations. If it’s a fair, open and balanced process, absolutely [we will participate],” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But we don’t want to see reckless, irresponsible handling of an affair that took the lives of four brave Americans.”

Democrats seem to be laying the groundwork for boycotting the committee if they feel the process is stacked against them.

- As Democrats mull their role in Benghazi probe, GOP forges ahead, CBS News, May 12, 2014.

3. The grandniece of IRA figure Joe Cahill, who alleged she was raped by an IRA member, has claimed she had to face her alleged assailant in a republican-style court.

Maíria Cahill also said yesterday that several people, numbering in “double figures”, had contacted her to recount similar experiences at the hands of IRA members.

Ms Cahill, who has waived her right to anonymity, told BBC’s Spotlight programme she had been subjected to what was described as a republican “kangaroo court”. She alleged that in 1997 she underwent a 12-month cycle of sexual abuse, including rape, by a suspected member of the IRA. She was 16 at the time.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt has raised the allegations with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, while the Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire is investigating how the PSNI investigated the case.

“We have received a complaint that police failed to investigate an alleged rape. Our inquiries are ongoing,” said a spokesman for the ombudsman.

The Assembly justice committee is also to investigate the Spotlight allegations.

Earlier this year the alleged suspect was acquitted of the sexual assault charges. Other republicans who were separately charged in connection with the alleged IRA questioning of Ms Cahill were also acquitted.

- Cahill tells BBC of alleged rape by IRA man, The Irish Times, November 3, 2014.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



Keep them on side

Sheep's skin

Hold your horses

A shot across the bows?

Count your blessings

Pie in the sky


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:祝兴媛)



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