Kangaroo Court

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She's got Justice right in her pocket...

"The case against Clevinger was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with."

A Kangaroo Court is a sham legal proceeding or court; one that denies due process and fairness in the name of expediency. The outcome of such a trial is essentially decided in advance, (usually for the purpose of providing a conviction), either by going through the motions of manipulated procedure or by allowing no defense at all and overuling all objections. In either case, a Hanging Judge usually presides over the trial in question.

This one is unfortunately Truth in Television, especially in countries ruled by dictators, who are fond of putting dissidents through "show trials" as a prelude to execution. The name either started in;

  • Texas, during the Gold Rush of 1849, and refers to justice "in leaps," like a Kangaroo.
  • Europe, during the colonial era, and refers to courts deporting people en masse to Australia simply to clear backlogs.

Compare Joker Jury (which a Kangaroo Court may well have), Jury of the Damned, Trial of the Mystical Jury, and Decoy Trial. If it's the litigants who are making a mockery of the court system rather than those running the proceedings, it's a Courtroom Antic.

See also The Scapegoat and Miscarriage of Justice.

Examples of Kangaroo Court include:

Anime and Manga

  • One Piece had a Kangaroo Court set-up at Enies Lobby, with the ironically-named "Eleven Just Jurymen", a jury of condemned criminals who would only say "Guilty!", and Chief Justice Baskerville, an insane giant three-headed judge. Though they were never actually shown trying anyone, acting more as a bunch of Giant Mooks.
  • Suzaku Kururugi in Code Geass actually went back to one of these after the protagonist rescued him. Say what you want about him, the man walks the walk.
    • The Black Knights do this to Lelouch in Turn 19 as a prelude to a mutiny. Schneizel, a Britannian prince, sets up a meeting knowing in advance Lelouch won't attend (because Nunnally is presumed dead). He then proceeds to tell them that their leader is an exiled Britannian prince with Geass, as well as a laundry list of crimes they think he's used it for. The only evidence presented which has a shred of credibility is a voice clip in which Lelouch supposedly admits to causing the SAZ massacre (the part where Suzaku calls him a liar is omitted). Ohgi comes in with another Britannian, Villetta, and claims this is all true. Everyone believes him. They make a deal to trade Lelouch for Japan, trick Kallen into walking Lelouch into a crossfire, then nearly gun them both down. Kangaroo Court at its finest, and Kallen even points it out to absolutely no effect.
  • Mazinger Z: In one episode The Dragon Baron Ashura had trapped The Hero Kouji Kabuto and decided "judging" him, playing judge, jury and executioner.
  • Simon gets put through one of these in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann when Rossiu needs a scapegoat. Kittan angrily protests at the verdict, pointing out, among other things, that they gave Simon the stupidest member of the government for a defense attorney.

Rossiu: Quiet in my courtroom, Legal Affairs Chief Kittan.

  • Combattler V: In one episode of the first season, the Big Bad built a Robeast disguised like Combattler and caused havoc with it. Professor Yotsuya and the Combattler team were put under arrest and judged nearly instantly, and during the proceeding it was painfully obvious the minds of the court were already made and refused giving them a fair hearing.
  • Pamela and Ash are submitted to an unofficial one in Tarot Cafe. Both are kidnapped by an insane group of religious fanatics who claim that the two are minions of the Devil. They first ask Ash if he believes in wizards. When he says he does not, they twist his words to mean that he admitted to not believing in God (according to them, wizards are a sign of the Devil, thus denying the existence of wizards is to deny the Devil and denying the existence of the Devil is thus to deny the existence of God). When they ask Pamela the same question, she simply says "What if I do?", which they take to mean that she does believe in wizards and is thus an agent of the Devil. Partway through, Pamela is crushed by a giant statue, which the fanatics believe is a sign that God judged her...and then believe that she's evil because she survived (really, she's immortal).
  • The Central 46 in Bleach is one which rules all Soul Society. When Urahara is framed for creating the Visoreds, he is convicted on circumstantial evidence, not allowed any sort of defense and had his sentence increased just for answering back.
  • In the beginning of Deadman Wonderland, Ganta, a little boy who was the only survivor of the Red Man Massacre, was arrested and tried for the crime. They wouldn't allow him to speak and quickly sentence him.
  • A recent episode of Pokémon, had Ash Ketchum, Pikachu, Iris, and Cilan (the last serving as the judge) do this to a one-shot character.

Comic Books

  • Most of the trials faced by the Untouchable Trio in Knights of the Dinner Table fall into this category.
  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog comic, Sonic was once put on trial by Knothole in a literal Kangaroo Court: two kangaroos (namely, Hip and Hop from Sonic Spinball) were the judges. They came back to try Geoffery St. John for treason. Both times, both were found guilty, but freed for different reasons (Sonic for finding the true guilty party and Geoffery by having his conviction overturned by King Ixis Naugus
  • This is the only court available in Sin City.
  • Buffkin's trial in Oz in Fables.


  • Judge Turpin's trial of Benjamin Barker in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. In fact, all of Turpin's trials would appear to be like this (such as the one that had an eight-year-old boy sentenced to hang), but Barker's is especially Egregious, especially since Turpin specifically wanted him out of the way so he could have his wife for himself.
  • Alice's trial in Disney's Alice in Wonderland, as well as the trial of the Knave of Hearts in the original book, when it begins with the sentence and works backward to conviction from there.
    • In the Hallmark adaptation, Alice even says to the Queen that she won't stand by and let an innocent man be condemned. The Queen calmly replies, "Why not? It happens all the time!"
  • Dan Aykroyd's crazy judge presides over this kind of court in the movie Nothing but Trouble.
  • Traffic court is already close to kangaroo court in real life, as convictions are relatively easy to obtain, but Cars (2006) takes this to an extreme: the only competent lawyer in town works for the municipality, the judge has already decided to convict before the trial even begins and the process is pure theatre in which the case is more a plea about the plight of the town than a serious lawyerly analysis of Arizona Revised Statutes Title 28 - Transportation - Chapter 3 - Traffic and vehicle regulation.
  • Kirk and Bones' Klingon trial in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. In fairness, they did get a Klingon "lawyer", Worf's Identical Grandfather, who was really on their side. Not that the court paid much attention to him or anything. They were framed, so it might have gone that way anyway, but they had no possibility of winning, really.
    • The Novelization noted that everyone was surprised when the judge actually sustained one of the defense attorney's objections.
  • Red Nightmare: Jerry Donavan is given a Kangaroo Court where the court must be reminded to present its evidence. After being found guilty, the court adds to the indignity by denying Donavan a firing squad. [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11]
  • Legion: Aldrich is sentenced to death for desertion after he cancels a commando mission. Considering Flemming's view towards war this sentence was a show trial. Also, the other convicts were sentenced to death for crimes such as going AWOL and computer hacking.
  • In the climax of Pink Floyd's Rock Opera The Wall, Pink puts himself on trial in his head, with the witnesses being the various pople who hurt him or he hurt throughout his life and the judge being a giant talking buttocks in a powdered wig. Oddly enough, this proves to be a very good thing - the judge's sentence is "TEAR DOWN THE WALL!", opening him to the world again.
    • Although tearing down the wall might not be such a great idea after all, since the movie implies it's what finally drives Pink completely insane. Considering the story is based on the lives of several band members, one of whom spent the final 30 years of his life in a catatonic state after having a drug- and stress-induced breakdown...yeah.
  • The "trial" of Connie & Raymond Marble in Pink Flamingos. Cotton even comes right out and calls it such!
  • Idiocracy. The defense objects to things his own client did that are unrelated to the case.
  • A Flash Back in Airplane!: The Sequel shows how Ted Stryker was framed for the crash of the prototype lunar shuttle, even though it was transparently caused by faulty wiring. This of course sets up the plot of the film, where he must save the passengers on the real thing.
  • In Captain Blood Hanging Judge Lord Jeffreys refuses to let Peter Blood defend himself properly during his trial, and literally instructs the jury to "bring in a verdict of 'Guilty.'" Also Truth in Television not just with Lord Jeffreys court (known as the Bloody Assizes for good reason) but British courts generally at the time.
  • Paths of Glory contains a particularly unrepentant example of this trope. A military tribunal refuses to let the defense enter evidence, refuses to let the defendants elaborate on the circumstances that forced them to retreat, does not keep a trial record, and exists solely to sentence three enlisted men to death so the generals in charge of a failed attack are not blamed for it.
  • One script of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? had a literal kangaroo court - Judge Doom's own jury. Every kangaroo held a letter from "Y-O-U A-R-E G-U-I-L-T-Y-!".
  • The court martial in Breaker Morant.
  • A literal one in Tank Girl, although they eventually trust her and ally with her.
  • In Hart's War, a black airman accused of killing another prisoner at a German POW camp figured he was getting tried by such a court due to his being black. It turns out that the trial is merely for distraction purposes, to draw attention away from a plan for prisoners to sneak out of the camp and blow up a German munitions plant the Allies thought was something harmless.
  • Implied in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. A child asks to see the hanging of the pirates, to which his father tells him that its the trial that is occuring soon, the hangings are actually going to occur later (noon, more specifically), and when the Judge (Jack Sparrow in disguise) sentences Gibbs to life imprisonment, the court attendees boo at the decision, as they wanted to see a hanging, and promptly start tossing food.
  • In Death Of A Soldier the American soldier stationed in Australia who had been going around town killing women to 'steal their voices' was given this kind of trial in the most blatant of fashions. Every objection by the prosecutor was sustained by the judge, while every objection made by the defense was overruled. However, this was a case when the defendant really did do the crime, it was rushed to ease tension between the soldiers and the townsfolk.
  • High School Musical: a humorous version is used to seperate the various social groups. [12] [dead link]


  • Harry's trial in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The Ministry at first didn't even plan to give him one, but Dumbledore changed their minds. Although Harry got off, it was made very obvious that they had attempted to rig it. They changed the time and place of the hearing at the last minute, hoping to convict him in absentia. He got no presumption of innocence, with Fudge cutting off his defense with the words "I'm sorry to interrupt what I'm sure would have been a very well-rehearsed story." Fudge is suprised that Dumbledore shows up to get Harry off and Dumbledore says he turned up early due to a mistake.
    • Bartemius Crouch didn't give suspected Death Eaters much of a chance to defend themselves, either. Ludo Bagman was only able to present a defense at his trial because he was, at the time, a popular Quidditch player and the rest of the Wizengamot wouldn't stand for him being thrown into jail without a chance to defend himself. Barty Crouch Jr.'s trial was a sham to let Crouch Sr. publicly disinherit his son, and is only made marginally less awful by the part where a) Barty Jr. actually was guilty and b) was caught literally red-handed standing over the bodies. And they were lucky; many people, including Sirius Black, were taken to Azkaban without any trial at all. And there are absolutely no allegories whatsoever in that.
    • And let's just say that things don't get any better in the seventh book, when the Death Eaters take over the Ministry and put Umbridge in charge of trials accusing Muggle-borns of stealing magic.
    • A scholarly article published by a professor of the University of Tennesee College of Law, Harry Potter and the Half-Baked Bureaucracy, does a formal analysis of what little of the Wizarding legal system that can be deduced from all the references in canon. The author's conclusion: Magical Britain's justice system, when compared to that of "some despotic Central African nation", comes off as the worse of the two.
  • Franz Kafka's The Trial, in which the prisoner, Josef K, is never told what the charge is, cannot defend himself, and therefore is convicted and then sentenced to death without evidence of anything.
  • In the Thursday Next series, Thursday is put on trial by Jurisfiction for changing the ending to Jane Eyre. Two of her trials take place in Kafka's The Trial and Alice's Adventures In Wonderland; since she's read the books, though, she knows what rules to play by, and manages to get herself out of both trials.
  • Played fairly seriously in the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel "The Krytos Trap", with the trial of Tycho Celchu. The whole thing is quite complicated, but the nonhuman public tended to believe he was guilty and too much effort was put into defending him, while the human public tended to see it as a sham trial of an innocent man (It was, but in a bit of a subversion, it was for good reasons and the director of intelligence knew he hadn't done it, but suspected he might be a traitor anyway, and used the trial to flush the real mole out).
  • Famous Double Subversion in The Count of Monte Cristo - Dantes has just been framed for treasonous activities and goes before Villefort the Public Prosecutor alone in his chambers. Villefort is touched by Dantes' integrity and about to let him go, when he sees that a letter which was part of the evidence against Dantes, implicates his own father in treason and would ruin his career. At this point of course, the Kangaroo Court element kicks in as Villefort applies powers actually given to him under the law to have Dantes imprisoned indefinitely without trial.
    • The Depardieu Film of the Book also includes a scene where Villefort has an impoverished woman sentenced to death for infanticide while delivering a lecture on her immorality. This is particularly hypocritical as Villefort believes himself guilty of infanticide.
  • Gently spoofed in The Phantom Tollbooth, in which (very short) Officer Shrift arrests Milo and Tock - because, among other things, "it's illegal to bark without using the barking meter" - stifling Milo's repeated protests by informing him that he's also the judge, and yes, the jailer too.
    • "Guilty Guilty Guilty - Everyone is Guilty until proven Innocent!" He reverses his tune in the end.
    • Subverted by the fact that unless you actually do something wrong, you get sent to a cell that has a tunnel leading out of it. He just likes to put people away
  • The end of Headcrash has one of these, where a freshly-plucked-from-VR protagonist is placed before a court that appears to have dolls and teddy bears as the Judge and prosecutor, respectively. While in VR/cyberspace, the protagonist trashed the computer of a Michael-Crichton-Stand-In. Since toys judging him were avatars of the secretly-sentient supercomputers that ran the world, he was charged with murder and given a life sentence on a deserted beach. Which turned out to be Hawaii, because the supercomputers have a sense of humor.
  • The trial in To Kill a Mockingbird is essentially one of these. Whilst Atticus' eloquent, principled and passionate defense clearly exposes the truth of the matter to all and sundry - namely, that Tom Robinson never raped Mayella Ewell, and that Mayella and her father Bob are lying - the verdict, tragically, is never in any real doubt; it's Alabama in the 1930s, Tom Robinson is black, and Mayella and Bob are white.
    • The trial wasn't rigged as such, it was conducted in a completely fair manner—it was just a sad fact that no white man in the 1930s would rule in favor of a black man in court. Despite that, Atticus claimed that they were actually quite close to a hung jury.
    • Even if the jury was always destined to vote against Tom Robinson it is pointed out after the trial that the judge picked Atticus as the defense because he was the only lawyer who had anything close to a chance of winning a black man's case.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The trial of Jesus Christ in the Gospels is presented as a sham going against every bit of Jewish law on how trials are held, being carried on at night, in secret, etc. Roman subjects who were not citizens, however, had no right to a trial, so Jesus could be sentenced to death at the whim of Pontius Pilate... kind of: Pilate did attempt to state that Jesus did not commit any crimes, but the crowd would not hear of it, so he essentially convicted him just to shut them up (and symbolically washed his hands of the whole affair, saying that it was they, not him, who'd done the condemning).
  • Clevinger's trial in Catch-22. Lieutenant Scheisskopf is the judge, prosecutor and Clevinger's attorney.
  • Carried to the point of insanity at the end of Alice in Wonderland, of course. The Queen repeatedly demands an execution before the trial even begins: "Sentence first, verdict afterward"; the King, more forgiving, just wants the jury to consider their verdict before the evidence is presented.
  • In the BattleTech novel Operation Excalibur, Grayson Carlyle goes through a Kangaroo Court, but he's fully aware of it from the start, and has been instructed by the government employing him to use it to find employment with a group planning treason.
  • In Dragonlance, the Gnomes' courts always work this way. The judges are literally on a scale (with three on one side and one obese Gnome on the other) and the side that hits the floor decides on the sentence. The obese Gnome has all the authority however, the others are ignored. A trial shown in the book works by lawyers pouring gold and pastries into the obese judge's pan. The rich guys get off completely free, the poor guy also with them is given a light punishment.
  • In The Eye of the Storm, pretty much the entire Galactic judicial system is shown to be one of these, serving the whim du jour of the Darhel, when trying Mike O'Neal, Jr.
  • A non-series mystery novel by Ellery Queen, The Glass Village, has a murder that takes place in an extremely small community. The locals decide that a tramp is the murderer and form a jury out of the 12 adults in the community, even though some of them are witnesses to events, court clerk, court reporter, etc. The Judge allows this to happen because he is sure that the conviction will be quashed by a higher court's viewing these procedural irregularities, but the protagonist believes that the jury will wrongly convict, then lynch, the defendant and solves the crime at the last minute.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Chessman of Mars, Tara, Turan, and Ghek's trial as Corpals is such a farce that they escape by force before it's over (U-Thor attempts to advise them but is unable to stop it).
    • In A Fighting Man of Mars, Tan Hadron explains the truth of where he came from, and is still convicted as a spy by an obviously biased jeddak.
  • In Sword of Truth, Kahlan is put on trial by a wizard of the Imperial Order for a Long List of crimes. The jury and witnesses have been misled, bribed, threatened or tortured into finding her guilty.
  • Honor Harrington gets one in her very first book, when the People's Republic of Haven sentences her to death for the destruction of a Havenite freighter which they claim was unarmed, but which packed the firepower of a battle cruiser and nearly destroyed Harrington's own ship, in order to cover up the fact they had the armed ship in Manticore territory. As she's tried in absentia, it's not like anyone cares, and the two nations are soon at war anyway. Several books later, she's captured in battle, and the bloodthirsty new rulers of Haven are looking for a legal way to get rid of her (as a prisoner of war, she can't be summarily executed) and hey, look, she's got a death warrant predating the war!
    • Subverted brutally when Thomas Theismann stages his coup and overthrows Oscar Saint-Just. Saint-Just asks cynically if he'll get a show trial just like all the ones he's been responsible for. Theismann informs him there have been enough of those sort of trials... and shoots him on the spot. It's later inverted when Theisman attempts to turn himself in to the new government to receive the penalty his actions deserve under law, just to make the example to future generations that this isn't how it's supposed to go. His attempt is utterly derailed when President Pritchart explains to him that literally no federal prosecutor is willing to take the case, no member of the judiciary would accept his guilty plea, and even in the event anyone ever actually did then nothing could stop her from pardoning Theisman on the spot.
  • In book 4 of the Wheel of Time series, Suian is on the receiving end of one of these courts, led by Elaida. Although all of the Sitters were handpicked by Elaida in order to get Suian deposed, stilled, and executed, the rebel Sitters insist on claiming that what was done was legal, as Elaida had the bare minimum of Sitters required. It's the old Quorum of the Senate argument.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "Queen of the Black Coast" Conan the Barbarian is in flight from a court where they insisted that he had to tell them where a friend was. The friend in question was a young soldier who had killed a captain of the guard for "offering violence" to his girlfriend and had to flee with her to avoid the wrath of the law. Conan believed that his friend was in the right and refused to betray him, and when the judge threatened to have Conan thrown into the dungeon until he betrayed his friend, Conan split the judge's skull and got the hell out of there.
  • In Dudley Pope's Ramage's Trial, Ramage is court-martialled for relieving another captain of his command on the high seas. The presiding officer, Port Admiral Goddard, has been after Ramage for years, including bearing false witness at earlier courts martial, and seizes the opportunity to rig the trial by suppressing any testimony that would support Ramage's defence (that he acted out of extreme necessity because the captain he relieved was barking mad), including several witness statements that explain how mad Captain Shirley had a broadside fired at Ramage's own ship. He also sets to work to intimidate the panel of captains forming the trial board with not-so-veiled threats to wreck their careers if they don't vote "Guilty". It is only the arrival of an agent of the Lords of the Admiralty themselves that sees Ramage get a fair trial at the last.
  • The Solomon Kane poem The One Black Stain deals with the aftermath of the (Real Life) trial and execution of Thomas Doughty by Sir Francis Drake:

Solomon Kane stood forth alone,
grim man of sober face:
"Worthy of death he may well be,
but the trial ye held was mockery,
"Ye hid your spite in a travesty
where justice hid her face."

  • In The Tomorrow Series, Ellie and her friends are put on trial by the enemy after being captured. Since the proceedings are not in English, there are no defense lawyers, they're guilty as hell, and the court consists of enemy officers, it's no big surprise when Ellie and Homer are sentenced to death, the rest to very long prison terms. Later, in The Other Side of Dawn, Ellie is informed that her trial took place without her being present after she's been captured again, this time under a pseudonym. If the other side knew she was Ellie Linton, she'd have already been shot.
  • In the sixth book of the Warrior Cats series, what Tigerstar calls a "trial" for TigerClan's prisoners, who are innocent cats whose parents were from two different Clans. It's really nothing but whipping up hatred for the half-Clan cats so that their own Clanmates would mistrust them enough to want them driven out or killed.
  • Quantum Gravity apparently put Zal through something akin to a hearing by the elves. He noticed the vacancies in the council where his supporters should have been.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tyrion Lannister is the victim of one in the first book. After being kidnapped and taken to an impregnable fortress, he has to offer to confess in order to be let out of a cell specifically designed to make it's occupant commit suicide, and then has to demand a trial by publicly shaming his accusers to avoid going back there. The trial in question would be judged by the six-year old son of the man he's accused of murdering (who already shows a fondness for having people executed,) and presided over by the child's mother (who, in addition to being the one to accuse him of murdering her husband, is sister to his other accuser, and is quite clearly mad). To avoid this, his only option is trial by combat (he's a dwarf and his opponents are seasoned knights,) and when he demands a champion (as is his legal right) he is denied his choice and has to ask for a volunteer from the rabble of soldiers and mercenaries employed by his accusers. He comes out of the trial alive, and with a battle-hardened killer and a load of disgruntled barbarian tribesmen as his loyal followers.
    • Tyrion is again put on trial for murdering Joffrey. The judges are either family of the victim (and hated him even before the alleged crime), family of someone who could have been collateral damage, or have a political interest in the whole affair. The nature of the trial means all the evidence against him would be circumstantial, and the witnesses called either hate him, get his words out of context, or have been bribed to outright lie.
    • After Gregor Clegane is accused of heinous crimes, Ned Stark hears the testimony of the victims (who could only describe Clegane in general terms and by reputation, rather than positively identify him,) immediately sentences him to death in absentia, and sends men to execute him, without putting him on trial, giving him a chance to defend himself, or hearing any sort of witnesses. As it turns out, Clegane has committed the atrocities as well as many others, but his death sentence does not come with anything remotely approaching a fair trial.
      • In fairness, describing Clegane 'in general terms' is all that is necessary to positively identify him. It's not like the Seven Kingdoms have an abundance of eight-foot-tall 400-lb. plate-armored psychopaths wearing Lannister colors. And the one man who could even be said to vaguely resemble him in build and features, his younger brother, is not only impossible to mistake for Gregor unless you're blind (half of Sandor's face is literally burnt off), but also had the alibi of having been with Ned the entire time.
      • There is also that at the time Ned sent that party of soldiers to go kill 'the man alleged to be Gregor Clegane' said man was actively leading a war party through the Riverlands looting and burning, and so an immediate armed response of some kind was a necessity to begin with.
    • The Brotherhood Without Banners puts every one of their captives "on trial" before executing them, but it's clearly just a formality to give them the illusion of justice. Sandor Clegane calls them out on having no intention to give him a fair shake.

Live-Action TV

  • The entirety of season 23 of Doctor Who wherein the Doctor is placed on trial by his fellow Time Lords for the crime of interference (Time Lords being big on the Alien Non-Interference Clause), only for it to become gradually revealed that it's a Kangaroo Court designed to cover up the fact that he'd discovered that they'd committed far, far worse crimes (namely destroying Earth).
    • Then there's the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe's court martial in The War Games.
  • Star Trek examples:
    • In Deep Space Nine, "Tribunal," the Cardassian system of justice operates on a similar system. All trials are conducted with the outcome predetermined. The function of the trial is simply to show to the public the futility of rebellion against the state and to help the accused come to terms with their guilt. At the beginning, the judge announces, "The verdict is guilty. The sentence is death. Let the trial begin." In the end, when the Cardassian "defense" attorney is watching O'Brien walk out of the courtroom, Odo tells him that he's actually won the case. He responds, "They'll kill me!"
    • In the appropriately-named Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Drumhead", Picard compares the hearings an admiral was making on the ship to ferret out supposed Romulan conspirators to this kind of trial... and get hit with a trial of his own, for doing so.
    • Star Trek: Voyager ("The Chute"). Harry Kim and Tom Paris are accused of a terrorist bombing when trilithium residue (from Voyager's warp engines) is found on their clothing. Even when Janeway later catches the guilty party, the government isn't interested in releasing Harry and Tom in exchange for the terrorists—the fact that no conviction is ever reversed is regarded as a very effective deterrent.

Kim: The Akritirians interrogated me. When I wouldn't confess to the bombing, they dragged me in front of a judge. He said you'd already confessed for the both of us, then he pronounced me guilty.

    • Star Trek: The Original Series: Kirk is put on trial by Trelane in "The Squire of Gothos".
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Enterprise crew is put on trial by Q in the pilot episode "Encounter at Farpoint", although that's really more of a Trial of the Mystical Jury.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise ("Judgement"). Captain Archer is sentenced to death by a Klingon tribunal (for "aiding rebels", when he was just protecting some unarmed colonists from being destroyed by a Klingon warbird) and must 'prove his innocence' to be acquitted—a task his Klingon advocate knows is hopeless. In fact the advocate gets sent to Rura Penthe with Archer for criticizing the justice system. The episode shows how the ancient Klingon values of 'honor' were being eroded by a 'might is right' attitude.
    • Star Trek: The Original Series: Spock is put on trial for mutiny in "Turnabout Intruder" by Janice Lester posing as Captain Kirk, who then accuses Dr. McCoy and Scotty of being affiliates. Eventually, Kirk gives them all, and the Kirk-stuck-in-Janice-Lester's-body, a death sentence, which is immediately quashed by Chekov and Sulu.
  • Virginia's defense of Wolf in The Tenth Kingdom is derailed by one of these. Luckily Tony, in one of his rare moments of dropping the Idiot Ball, manages to coerce Wendell into tracking down evidence and making The Reveal which condemns the true guilty party.
  • Mulder's trial in the series finale of The X-Files was a mixture of Kangaroo Court and Joker Jury.
  • The WWE has had a longstanding tradition known as Wrestler's Court. Whenever a performer does something which is considered against the (very informal) rules and traditions of the company, they are put on trial by their peers, with wrestlers Bob Holly and The Undertaker as prosecutor and judge, respectively, by virtue of their long WWE tenures. Punishments range from being the butt of practical jokes for a certain period to being forced to pay other wrestler's travel expenses.
  • Mission Impossible featured several of these, including the episode titled "The Trial".
  • Diagnosis: Murder: Mark Sloan is convicted of murder in a borderline Kangaroo Court. One of the witnesses, a landlady, is used to authenticate forged handwriting. At no point is a handwriting expert called to testify.
    • These web pages summarize the episodes where Sloan is falsely accused and the evidence and/or accusers do not have strong evidence or use the trial by media technique. [13], [14], [15], [16], [17], [18]
  • Blackadder's court martial in Blackadder Goes Forth. The charge: disobeying orders and killing General Melchett's favourite pigeon. The judge: General Melchett. Before they begin, Melchett says "Pass me the black cap, I'll be needing that", (the black cap was put on when a death sentence was passed) and the defence attorney is fined for wasting the court's time by turning up. Edmund lampshades the whole thing after the black cap comment by remarking "I love a fair trial."
  • Oddly subverted in an episode of Red Dwarf where they meet a creature known as The Inquisitor. While the odds of any of them proving that their existence is worthwhile are slim to none, this is not a Kangaroo Court - they are being judged by their own consciences. The outcome is still unjust, however, as the nobler ones judge themselves too harshly and the self-absorbed ones let themselves off the hook.
    • To give non-fans an idea, Rimmer, an amoral coward with an undeserving massive ego tries to say he's done good things, but can't lie to himself as The Inquisitor repeatedly points out that Rimmer isn't a good man. Rimmer blames his parents and that ends up being enough. The Cat gives a very weak case "I have given great pleasure to the world because I have such a beautiful ass." He gets off as well. Kryten points out that all of his good deeds are simply because of his programming as an android, but the Inquisitor repeatedly points out that Kryten is the most selfless person on the ship. The only one who really deserved deletion was Lister. The Inquisitor points out all the opportunities he had in his life that he wasted, while encouraging him to make some sort of argument of justification, which Lister refuses to do.
  • The Space Cases episode "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Court," where the kids hold court against Harlan Band for being a Jerkass.
  • One Mr. Bill sketch on Saturday Night Live has Mr. Bill being put on trial in a court where the mean Mr. Sluggo is the judge, jury, and district attorney. In the end, Mr. Bill is forced to plead insanity, only for him to end up receiving shock treatment (aka being put in an electric chair).
  • An episode of Stargate SG-1 featured Teal'c being put put on trial for killing a man while he was still serving Apophis. The twist was that his prosecutor was the son of the man he killed, and was also the judge and jury. It was very impartial, as you can tell.
    • In a further twist, Teal'c wanted to be found guilty. He was going through an kinda depressed stage in his character arc at the time.
    • When the team points out that the judge can't possibly be impartial and the trial is therefore unfair, he replies that strangers wouldn't understand the magnitude of the crime as well as the victim's family so such a trial is unjust to the victim.
    • Daniel points out that all of their views have historical precedent, which just pisses Jack off.
      • He's equally pissed off when General Hammond refuses to intervene on the grounds that no matter how unfair the trial may be, Teal'c really is guilty.
  • Inquizition was a Game Show Network original involving four contestants and the Inquiziter whose face you never saw, set in an unknown foreign country. The winner of the three elimination rounds would be given their papers and allowed to leave the country, while it was greatly suggested that each rounds loser would be executed.
  • Pick a Chinese period drama. ANY Chinese period drama. If a trial is featured, it will be this unless it is headed by Justice Bao.
  • A JAG episode set in an Arab country has an American judged for violating their airspace. While the first part of the trial seems, if not sympathetic to the prisoner, remotely interested in distributing justice, at one point Rab manages to prove that the planes were miles outside the country's airspace. Then, a recess is asked, and when they come back, the witness changes the original distance that would prove the prisoner's innocence, and the records from where he stated the other distance just magically vanish. Good thing it was a Decoy Trial and the plan was to break out the prisoner anyway.
  • Mike gets one of these in the "Agent for H.A.R.M." episode of MST3K, when he's put on trail for accidentally destroying several planets.
  • In a Sliders episode, the sliders end up in a world where the justice system has become a Game Show, and lawyers are banned. When Arturo tries to object to this attitude that Quinn may as well be convicted, the host warns him not to try any other "lawyer tricks". To be fair, though, Quinn is acquitted when the real killer is found.
  • In a fifth season Earth: Final Conflict episode, a radical judge kidnaps various people, including Renée Palmer, and tries them without a jury for "crimes against humanity" before executing them in a gruesome way. Luckily, the authorities show up just in time to spare Renée the same fate. The judge deliberately twisted the facts to prove his point, blaming Renée for things that others did.
  • Showed up twice in Tales from the Crypt.
    • In "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime," an Amoral Attorney is tried in a court with no due process, no jury, and highly Disproportionate Retribution sentences.
    • "The Third Pig", a bloody retelling of the Three Little Pigs had the third pig tried for the murder of his brothers. The judge, a wolf, is more interested in a golf game than the case and immediately hands the case off to the jury, all wolves, who deliberate in less than a second.
  • In Bangkok Hilton, Kat's trial for heroin trafficking takes place largely offscreen but it is implied to be this - in spite of a fair bit of evidence corroborating her story about Arkie Ragan, it is not enough to save her from conviction and the death penalty.
  • Played for laughs on Glee. The Warblers, being extremely set in their ways, are scandalized every time someone suggests that something be done differently:

Blaine: I am merely suggesting that instead of wearing blue ties with red piping, we wear jackets with red ties and blue piping for the competition.
(outraged mumbling among the other Warblers, Wes bangs his gavel to try to silence them)
Trent: This is a kangaroo court!

  • Spin City: Paul's appearance on The People's Court (after he is sued for getting a security guard who shot him in the ear fired) rapidly turns into one of these.
  • Babylon 5: "Rising Star": Susanna Luchenko tells Sheridan that the officers at his court-martial will be from the 'shoot him' side. He has no chance of being found innocent and the trial will be solely for the sake of reinforcing political control over the military.
  • A LazyTown episode featured Robbie Rotten stealing a cake and framing Sportacus. In a trial where Robbie acted as a prosecutor, he asked Sportacus questions like if it was true nobody saw him not eating the cake. In the end, he played the judge (Mayor Meanswell) like a puppet (sure, unlike Sportacus, Stephanie and Robbie, all characters are literal puppets but still).
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the gang is brought to court to answer for some parking tickets. When the judge doesn't seem impressed by their long-winded and unrelated justification, they announce that they're "going to call kangaroo court" on the preceding, which has about as much effect as you'd expect.


  • Although the trial is metaphorical, Thank You Pain by The Agonist qualifies.

Intent is a guilty conscience's white flag against pride,
So I find you guilty of the crimes.
I know, although I don't believe
It's not only my afterlife I bereave.
Appeals will be denied!

  • The Pot by Tool is about kangaroo courts for marijuana abusers.

You must have been, so high.
You must have been, so high.
Steal, borrow, refer, save your shady inference.
Kangaroo done hung the juror with the innocent.

  • In the Vicki Lawrence song "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," the trial of the narrator's brother for Andy's murder (which he didn't do) is implied to be this:

The judge said "guilty" in a make-believe trial
Slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile
And said, "Supper is waiting at home, and I've gotta get to it."

  • Steve Earle's "Justice in Ontario":

It was down in London, they were tried
And the guilty man stood free outside
When he took the stand to pay his debt
The judge was blind and the jury deaf

  • KMFDM's song "Rebels In Control" mentions this in a later part of the song resembling a news broadcast, which says that "the world's political leaders have been detained and will be tried by kangaroo courts for their committed crimes against humanity". The segment ends with Lucia screaming 'Make the rules up as we go!'
  • Kaito's "Judgement of Corruption." The title should speak for itself. In the song, Kaito plays Gallerian Marlon a corrupt judge who decides the fates of the accused according to the amount of money he's being bribed. It eventually leads to his untimely demise.

I couldn't care less about
their looks, age, ethnicity, or gender.
What's important is whether or not they have enough money.
That's all that matters.

I know I'm losing my appeal
'Cause I was hung, drawn and quartered before my trial


  • One of the sketches from the Monty Python radio programme was a man being put on trial in an utterly bizarre court—the judge cares more about catching his train than the trial, the court reporter is Ambiguously Gay, the Crown's lawyer is sleeping with the defense attorney's wife, and the jury is made up of Pepperpots who are very vocal in their impartiality. The defendant ends up stabbing himself in the back out of frustration.
  • Bleak Expectations has one in the final episode of Series 1, where Pip is accused of stealing the bin design from Americna Harlan J. Trashcan. Judge Hardthrasher blames Pip for killing his four brothers and sister, he personally hangs Pip's lawyer because his name is too long and he freezes Pip's financial assets. Trashcan is obviously Benevolent in disguise, showing the evidence of a newspaper with the ink still wet, and Hardthrasher even calls him Mr Benevolent. When he finds Pip guilty after saying this verdict is in no way caused by his sibling's dath, he says 'Yes! Got him!' He sentences him to death deciding the verdict himself under the accordance 'Innocent until proven dead.'

Tabletop Games

  • A hallmark of Inquisitor courts in Warhammer 40,000.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, in hell, souls can get a surprisingly fair trial, complete with appointed defense lawyer, but only if soul in question has the knowledge to request the trial, which is rare.
  • The Roseblack is under advisement to find excuses to extend her campaign in the Threshold as long as possible, as her enemies in the Deliberative are planning to have her executed on trumped up charges of treason the moment she sets foot back on the Blessed Isle (the fact that she actually is planning to commit treason is merely because she objects to this kind of thing being able to fly).
    • Well, also the part where the Roseblack would really like to be the next Empress despite having quite possibly the worst claim, by either blood[1] or right[2], out of all the possible contenders. But she did have a very nice army! So this is a case of 'the trial proceeding might be laughable, but the charge is actually true'.
  • Inverted by In Quest Gamer in their proposed "Kangaroo Court" variant of Magic: The Gathering, in which players can try to apply some semblance of real-world logic to the game; for example, using the Pacify card on an Angry Mob destroys it outright, since the mob is no longer angry.
    • The card Twisted Justice is styled after creating such a situation, and the flavor text is from the perspective of the judge as he's being manipulated to send an innocent man to his death.


  • Hermione's trial in Shakespeare's The Winters Tale.
  • In The Crucible, simply having your name screamed by a child in court was enough to prove your guilt. From that point it was a matter of demanding a confession with the threat of hanging if they didn't. Sadly, this is Truth in Literature, since it's based on the actual Salem Witch Trials and the HUAC hearings of the McCarthy era.
    • It gets to the point at which even members of that Kangaroo Court are subjected to a Kangaroo Court. When one of the "afflicted" girls tries to admit that she was pretending, the other girls in turn pretend that she's a witch who's tormenting them. Guess who's the one that everyone believes?
  • The jury in Gilbert and Sullivan's Trial By Jury are instructed by the Usher to ignore anything the defendant says so that they can remain impartial:

And when amid the plaintiff's shrieks,
The ruffianly defendant speaks
Upon the other side;
What he may say you needn't mind.
From bias free of every kind,
This trial must be tried!

  • In The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Mahagonny's justice system is comprised of the three fugitives from justice who founded the town in the first place. Whether accused criminals are acquitted or convicted depends largely on whether they can secretly negotiate with the judge over the size of a bribe.
  • Horton's trial in Seussical.
  • Oklahoma!! has the final sequence being the entire town holding a mock trial to excuse Curly for a murder charge. Regardless of whether or not he should have been guilty, they didn't even bother to hide that they were going to happily let him go after a few seconds.

Video Games

  • You hit one of these very early on in Chrono Trigger. In fact, you can win, but you're still condemned to three days in jail (before the Evil Chancellor "orders" your execution anyway). You get a few Ethers if you do.
    • One of the sidequests has another one; this time the present King Guardia is being framed for selling the Rainbow Shell.
      • Made even more hilarious by the fact that the Rainbow Shell has not budged an inch. You'd think the judge would say something like "oh, before we condemn the king of Guardia, let's make sure that this crime actually occured." It dosn't help that it was sitting IN THE BASEMENT of where the trial was occuring
  • The trial that Ellen is subject to in Hell Realm in Folklore is full of preconceived conclusions, as it's meant to be a symbolic representation of her own guilt. She isn't even guilty in the first place.
  • Happens too many times to count in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and its sequels; you can seemingly debunk every piece of evidence pointing towards your client (which is considered sufficient in real life, as the defense has nothing to prove, at least in the U.S. court system), but they're still not off the hook until you can actually prove their innocence, seemingly always by catching the real killer. This is perhaps justified by Rule of Fun. Still, the incompetence of the games' current court system becomes more apparent as the series goes on and reaches a head in the third case of the fourth game, and Phoenix actually is so frustrated with this -- especially since it cost him his career—that he begins a quiet crusade to reinstate the jury system and succeeds in getting a test run in the same game's fourth case. It's unintentionally hilarious when the judge explains that jury systems work by virtue of normal citizens having common sense.
    • The third game really starts to show how the courts are poorly maintained. In the third case, Tigre impersonates Phoenix Wright and gets a guilty verdict for Maggey Bryde in order to make sure he didn't come up as a suspect in the murder of Glen Elg. He fooled the court with not only his looks, but a fake attorney badge made out of cardboard! In the fifth case where Edgeworth returns after Phoenix is injured, Larry tells Edgeworth about the fake attorney badge from case 3 and Edgeworth notes to himself about how he is shocked that the judicial system could have decayed this much while he was away.
    • This becomes even more upsetting when you realize that many of the idiosyncracies of the games reflect real problems in the real-life Japanese legal system.
  • Guybrush is tried by one in chapter four of Tales of Monkey Island. The judge tried to sentence him to death by keelhauling before any charges were brought up!
  • Ultima VII Part 2: The Serpent Isle has two of them, one in Fawn where you have the opportunity to turn the tables on your accusers, another in Moonshade where you don't. The charges are inciting rebellion, and entering the bedchamber of the Mage Lord's mistress, respectively. Even though she admits that it was mostly her doing...
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Dead Cell's commander, Jackson, was arrested and found guilty for misappropriating funds and corruption. Of course, Ocelot later reveals that the trial was actually a sham, in an attempt to get Dead Cell renegade, or at least angry enough to attempt to attack the Patriots (since they apparently framed Dead Cell for terrorist attacks later on) so they could further use them for their S3 Plan.
  • In Baldur's Gate 2 your character is subjected to one of these by an ambitious Harper. Granted he may be right about you if you are playing an evil character, but that isn't why he is accusing you. No matter how you answer his questions he will find a way to twist them and make you seem like a dangerous monster not unlike an illithid or beholder that needs to be sealed away forever. Jaheira calls him out on this and declares that he cares more about his own advancement than about actually protecting the balance. At least you have the option of being a Deadpan Snarker throughout the whole interrogation.
  • In Super Mario Sunshine, Mario stands trial in one of the worst trials in video game history.
    • Step by step. The prosecutor states the sun has stopped shining due to the graffiti and Mario looks like the criminal. Peach tries to object, but the judge overrules it without even hearing her out. With Peach being royal and all, this is a fail. And when you saw the tape on the plane about Isle Delfino, you could see the REAL person doing it. So, in the words of Chuggaaconroy...

Chuggaaconroy: There was no statement by the defense, no attorney appointed to the defense, no witnesses called, no evidence presented, nobody even bothered to notice that we literally got here 4 minutes and 34 seconds ago before we were arrested, and there wasn't even a jury!?!... This is more rigged than Saddam Hussein's trial!

Sand: Well, at best, they will put you on trial - or what seems to be one, then execute you. At worst, they will dispense with the courtroom mockery and execute you as soon as you step within the gate. And when I say "execute," do not think it will be one clean chop of a headman's axe... Luskans have all sorts of inventive ways for executing prisoners that is not best to describe on a full stomach.

    • Their so-called "Prisoner's Carnival" really is that bad, too. They basically just bring out whoever is in the cells, shout at them and find some horribly twisted (and highly creative) way of executing them. This is the main entertainment in the city, thus the "Carnival" part. As an example, once they tied a prisoner down on a table, with a bottomless wooden cage on his stomach. They then put a large rat in the cage and set the cage on fire. The rat only has one way to avoid the flames, dig it's way out.
  • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories has the Dark Court, which issues summons for arbitrary felonies (for example, one character actually gets charged with a felony for his existence, and logging 100 hours on your save file gets a felony for "playing too much") and immediately convict whichever character(s) show up even if none of them are the one to whom the summons was originally issued. But this being the Disgaea universe, the trope is actually inverted since "good" is evil and "evil" is good, so summons are actually awards for achievements and you get rewards for being convicted of a felony.
  • Zinn's trial in Guild Wars. The prosecution calls themselves the "persecution" and doesn't call any of the 32 witnesses they've gathered ("No need. Everyone knows [he's] guilty."). Talking to the various participants reveals that Oola's bribed members of the Council and witnesses for their help in exiling Zinn.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Tali's trial is only a pretense for the judges to pursue their various political agendas on how to deal with the Geth. None of them really care what happens to Tali. The way out of the mess is to call them out on their Kangaroo Court in the manner most karmically fitting to your character, or by ensuring two quarians you met previously are alive and/or sane.
  • The Sheriff of Nottingham takes a "hang 'em all" attitude towards trials in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
  • The Mantra Army Court in Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne. You can get thrown in here for annoying someone. Wanna get out? It's trial by combat. Against Thor.
  • Kingdom Hearts zigzags the Trope in the Wonderland chapter; it is, naturally, no surprise that the Queen of Hearts seems willing to convict and execute Alice, but in this case, the crimes Alice is accused of are actually the work of the Heartless. The Queen is willing to accept proof of a Frame-Up as means to acquit - so long as Sora finds it. Even then, however, the Queen doesn't want to acquit Alice, and a rather strange Boss Battle ensues.[3] But even if Sora wins, Alice isn't out of the woods, as she's been kidnapped while all this is happening, and the Queen won't decide the case without the defendant present.

Web Comics

  • Inverted in The Order of the Stick: the court they find themselves in has explicitly been set up to pardon them, but look like they're getting a fair trial.
    • A more straight up example occurs here
  • Van Von Hunter starts out like this after a short flashback.
  • Given that Ansem Retort thrives on the Refuge in Audacity trope, it's hardly surprising that Zexion's impeachment trial was this. This quote summed it up best:

Phoenix Wright: OBJECTION!
Judge: Objection overruled; go fuck yourself sustained.

    • A bit of a subversion, though. That quote immediately followed a verdict of not guilty.
  • The Asperpedia trolls' trial in the Sonichu 10 finale features a judge who clearly considers the accused guilty and the defense presented by one of the accused (reading from a list of thoughts he had while high the night before). The trial ends in capital punishment for all defendants. A rare example as the kangaroo court is portrayed in a positive light by the author, attempting to make the end result seem just.
  • Terezi's trial of "Senator Lemonsnout" in Homestuck. For starters, there is no defense at all. Lemonsnout ends up hanged out her window. And it's supposed to be repesentative of her world's actual legal system. Also, the judge is called His Honorable Tyranny.
  • Evil Diva They'll try Angela before they damn her
  • Sodality features Darius Philippine running such a court within SCALLOP, which the Toklisanan government tolerates only because one of the four girls on trial is a Phexo. Even though Candi is acquitted, she is made to do time and is eventually even tethered. Since she's a Phexo, she's practically a slave and any freedom she has is illusory. They can tweak the terms of her captivity however convenient. Lex later uses this to Candi's advantage, having an agent arrest Candi and then disappearing her into a SCALLOP-run cell so that a corrupt senator can't have her assassinated for knowing too much.
    • Darius also allows for Laurie to be acquitted on the bogus charges of her conspiring to steal the Earwig armor, but only after making certain to do as much damage to her good name as possible to hurt her chances of finding a job once she leaves the Sodality.
    • Celia is acquitted, but only because she threatened to expose Darius for covering for Oisdaat after the latter raped her.
    • Dolly was found guilty, even though Jeraime's will stated that the Earwig armor was to go to Dolly and that the contract with SCALLOP for the armor had been rendered null and void. Darius tried to argue that since her marriage to Jeraime was not legally recognized in Toklisana and that Jeraime wasn't dead yet, that it didn't matter. Darius didn't want evidence that he had an affair leaking, and the Earwig helmet's AI knew all of Darius' dirty secrets.
  • This is Zigzagged in one of the original Nodwick strips from Dragon magazine, where the heroes are captured by a cabal of drow, to be sentenced for the wanton destruction of Lolth's spider-ship. (Which they are guilty of, by the way.). The judge initially doesn't intend to give them much of a trial, as they had been convicted in absentia. However, she actually seems reasonable, and lets them go when they offer reparations by giving the Spider Goddess information about a potential suitor in another dimension. (Who? Spider-Man!)

Web Original

N. Critic: * in N. Bison voice* All in favor? Aye! All opposed?
Everyone: Nay...
N. Critic: * in sing-song voice* Too bad I'm in cha-a-arge! GUILTY! * bangs a squeaky mallet*

    • This is later reversed, after the citizens of Kickassia revolt and Phelous mocks this.

N. Critic: I'm...going to get my ass kicked! Wait...
Phelous: Too bad! Motion passed!

Western Animation

  • The dream sequences of Little Lulu's Musical Lulu and its fish-themed semi-remake with Little Audrey both involve textbook Kangaroo Courts, with the girls being tried by a courtroom of musical instruments and fish, respectively, and are both pronounced guilty after several unfair testimonies and a very brief deliberation from the Jury.
    • Granted, Audrey didn't help her case by being so damn rude about it.
  • In The Fairly OddParents episode "Something Fishy", Cosmo is pronounced guilty of sinking Atlantis after Timmy utters a single word in his defense.
    • Even worse is in the Unwish Island episode in which Imaginary Gary gives Timmy a very brief trial, with the word "Guilty!" repeatedly uttered in between sentences.
  • Rugrats had one in Pickles vs. Pickles, in which Angelica sues her parents for forcing her to eat broccoli, and the court was completely and utterly on Angelica's side. As Drew pointed out "This isn't a courtroom! It's a 3-ring CIRCUS!" Luckily for Drew, it was All Just a Dream.
    • This is how ridiculous it is - Angelica brings her doll, cat, and stuffed animal up as witnesses and the judge allows it.
  • The Quintessons of Transformers are fond of simply declaring everybody who they try as "innocent", then dropping them into pits full of Sharkticons anyway. Each Quintesson is both judge and jury, although they have an excuse in this regard, because they're robotic squids that have five faces that flip around. They do permit Hot Rod and Kup to plead for their lives, although the Quintesson admits "It sometimes helps... but not often." (They were saved by Grimlock, the other Dinobots and Wheelie anyway.)
    • Later in season 3 the Autobots do this to Sky Lynx and the Dinobots, after several world monuments were stolen by the Decepticon base/dinosaur warrior Trypticon. They were suspected for the sole reason that "dinosaur electrons" were found at the scenes of the crimes (raising the question of why Sky Lynx was suspected, since he's a dragon-lynx beast). They couldn't do much to defend themselves from the accusations, since the court was presided over by the Autobot's own base/giant warrior Metroplex.
  • Captain Simian and The Space Monkeys had an episode of this where a minor villain trapped the crew on a Kangaroo Court planet.

Apax: Oh goody! More contempt! Another two.... no, no, no, make that four years! Two for each of your charming personalities.

  • In the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "Gang Busters", Buster and Plucky are put on trial for a crime Montana Max framed them for. The jury is made up of clones of Yosemite Sam.
  • In the Classic Disney Short Pluto's Judgement Day, Pluto dreams that he is being put on trial for crimes against feline kind. The jurors, judge and prosecutor (all cats, of course) make no bones about what the verdict will be, and when the jury convenes for deliberations, they simply go through a revolving door.
  • In the Clear My Name episode of Sheep in The Big City, Sheep is assured that he'll "be found guilty in a completely fair trial." The judge declares him guilty after his opening statement.
  • Given the setting, it's inevitable that this trope come up in Jimmy Two-Shoes. In fact, it happens twice in one episode, first for Cerbee and then for Jimmy and Beezy.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: "Avatar Day", however it turned out Avatar Kyoshi actually did kill Chin, or at least held herself responsible. The trial itself, however, is still grossly unfair.
    • The village's system works like this, no evidence is ever presented, the plaintiff and defendant state their version of the events. Then the plaintiff decides who's telling the truth and apparently gets the final say in the matter.
  • The King episode "Terrier of the Ocean" centres around a Kangaroo Court.
  • An episode of Challenge of the Superfriends was titled "Trial of the Super Friends." Four members of the Justice League get captured by the Legion of Doom, and are put on trial. You can probably guess what happens.
  • Captain Pugwash: "Gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the case against this notorious pirate, this vile criminal whose very existence is a threat to the safety of respectable, law-abiding citizens such as yourselves. How say you then: is the prisoner guilty, or by some improbable chance not guilty?"
  • Garfield and Friends: Two mice stole a slice of pie from Garfield and framed Odie, who demanded a trial. Garfield then said Odie would get a fair trial where he'd be convicted. During the trial, Garfield called Nermal to testify despite Nermal having not to do with the episode until then and asked question that had nothing to do with the case. Garfield later asked his teddy bear to say anything if Odie wasn't guilty. Fortunately Nermal found the culprits.
  • In the episode of Family Guy "Cool Hand Peter", Peter, Quagmire, Cleveland, and Joe are given two weeks in jail by a clearly-biased jury, made up of various characters from The Simpsons; clearly this is Self Deprecating Humor on the writers' part, as the show is frequently accused of ripping off of The Simpsons.
  • This was Zig-Zagged with Mr. Mxyzptlk's trial in his second appearance in Superman: The Animated Series, where he was charged with "meddling with an underevolved species", violating interdimensional travel laws, and breaking his word (which is considered a very serious crime in his dimension, apparently). The trial consisted simply of the three judges reading the accusations, scolding him, and finding him guilty, and when his wife Gsptlsnz tried to defend him by arguing "extenuating circumstances", they responded by turning her into a tree - clearly they aren't fond of lawyers. Of course, Mxyzptlk was obviously guilty of these charges, and the sentence he received could be viewed as lenient, considering all the trouble he caused; Superman compared it to "three months of community service", although it Mxy probably didn't like it very much.
  • Zigzagged in the Inside Job episode where Reagan is put on trial for assaulting the Reptoid leader - which she is obviously guilty of, by the way. She tore his arms off, at a peace treaty negotiation no less, and is still covered with his blood as she is brought before the judge. At first, the judge (Judge Judy, who like many celebrities in the episode, is secretly a Reptoid) doesn't give her much chance to speak, declaring her guilty and sentencing her to have her arms torn off. Then, however, she is willing to hear Brett's version of the story (that it was due to a design flaw in a piece of equipment he designed to prevent her from being hugged, something she hates) and Judy is willing to reduce the sentence to court mandated therapy and one group hug.

Real Life

  • Mata Hari was the victim of a military Kangaroo Court. France was facing defeat during a World War 1 German offensive and the government was desperate to deflect blame to external enemies. The tropes of: Frame-Up, Joker Jury, Jury of the Damned, Miscarriage of Justice, Witch Hunt; also are relevant since Mata Hari’s trial was conducted by a military court that had a history of convicting people because they were politically inconvenient.
  • The 'Mock Trials' in Stalin's Russia, in which the court was ostensibly impartial, but enemies of the state would tearfully confess to the numerous crimes they had committed against Comrade Stalin, Party and All Soviet People, and would beg the court to sentence them to the most severe penalties possible (mainly because if they didn't, their families would pay the price). This was after they'd been routinely beaten, tortured and deprived of sleep for weeks at a time, of course. With some defendants, crimes extended back to before there even was a Soviet Union to betray, with them supposedly traitors as they were fighting with the revolution, but not in any way preventing it. This is part of the source for doublethink in 1984.
  • The trial of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife Elena after the Romanian Revolution was an obvious show trial. Even their own lawyers accused them of capital crimes, for which no actual proof was offered. Though the presiding judge told them that there remained the possibiliy of appeal, their sentence of death by firing squad was carried out minutes after the trial. As Ceaușescu himself put it, "We could have been shot without having this masquerade!"
  • The 'People's Court' of Nazi Germany was extreme even by the standards of the regime. Impartiality or fairness were not even feigned. Defendants were sometimes denied belts to hold up their trousers. Some trials consisted of little more than a rambling stream of invective by the judge, Roland Freisler, a living caricature of a Hanging Judge, who once used "Off with His Head!" as a verdict.
  • North Korea
    • People were executed for minor theft. The defense attorney agreed with the prosecutor.
    • Averted: bribing the police could get a person released. Also, many people were released to avoid overcrowding the prisons.
    • Subverted: people were arrested for a minor crime, charged with a political crime, and then the police would steal the evidence and sell it on the black market.
  • Charles I had no chance of receiving a fair trial, although in his enemies' defense they could not technically have tried him even were he a tyrant (opinion is divided on the subject) under the legal system at the time. The outcome, while undergoing plenty of constant negotiating behind the scenes, was never in doubt as regards his guilt.
  • In 1882, "Doc" Manning, Frank Manning, and James Manning found themselves in a rare example of a Kangaroo Court that wanted to get them off when they were tried for the murder of US Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire by a jury made up entirely of their friends.
  • Many modern historians believe that the infamous Captain William Kidd was nothing more than a privateer with harsh methods. His trial for piracy lasted only two days, he was not given a lawyer, and critical evidence that would've exonerated Kidd was deliberately misplaced.[19]
    • Kidd was trapped between the Tory and Whig political parties. The Tory's wanted to use Kidd to disgrace the Whig's. When he refused to testify, he became politically useless. The Whigs wanted him convicted to avoid public embarassment.
  • The Khmer Rouge functioned the same way as the PRC and USSR did. But they usually had the guilty dig their own graves before beating them to death.
  • Trials for blacks in the Jim Crow South were frequently Kangaroo Courts, especially when the victim was white. With no black judges, all-white juries, and careless-at-best attention paid to constitutional protections, a conviction was more or less a Foregone Conclusion. And of course, all this was assuming that the accused didn't get lynched first...
    • Double Subverted in the Mary Phagan case. The accused, a Jew from New York, was convicted of raping and murdering Mary Phagan, despite a wealth of evidence pointing at the black janitor (irony of ironies). The governor of the state looked over the evidence, however, and was not convinced; accordingly, he commuted the sentence to life imprisonment, sacrificing his own political career in the process. When the accused was being transferred to prison, however, a group of vigilantes ambushed the carriage, kidnapped and lynched him.
  • Some people seem to take this trope literally.
  • The Pirate Bay seem to be on the receiving end of several of these in the civil cases between them and entertainment companies. It's a matter of debate on the Spectrial over whether the judge's membership of the same pro-copyright organisations as several representatives of the entertainment industry in the case constitutes bias or not. One example which is VERY suspect is them being sued in the Netherlands but not even officially summoned. Of course, they lost that case.
  • Cyber Patrol case, in the same vein, but far more jaw droppingly—see 'Slavery' and 'genocidal slaughter' cited in copyright case.
  • England's Star Chamber, originally conceived to quietly deal with the medieval equivalent of celebrity crimes, became this by the time of Charles I. One of the more Egregious cases was that of John Lilburne; when brought before the Court he was asked how he pleaded, and when he asked what the charge was they tortured him for a while and then asked him again how he pleaded. The US Constitution's Fifth Amendment is generally believed to be a direct result of the Star Chamber's abuses.
  • The French Revolution had a lot of these once Robespierre took power. People were sentenced to the guillotine for such paltry offenses as not giving soldiers discounts in the name of "liberty". The trial of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette turned out this way as well. The revolutionaries even accused the latter of having sex with her seven-year-old son. The jurors said that simply being a king made Louis XVI guilty.
  • The trials during the Red Scares tended to be this. They sometimes didn't need to be, as being accused of being a communist, or being associated with communism, or anyone who's associated with anyone who's associated with communism in any way would probably destroy your reputation beyond repair anyway.
  • The witch trials of Europe, under a thinly veiled disguise of order, were mostly Kangaroo Courts. You could basically be tried, especially if you were a woman, for anything ranging from being promiscuous to using magic to prevent someone from achieving a full erection. The Malleus Maleficarum, the rough equivalent of a rulebook, explicitly said the fate of a witch was already sealed the moment she was interrogated by the Inquisitor. Just to give some Nightmare Fuel examples:
    • Witches weren't allowed, under any condition, to know the names of people pressing charges over them, no matter how trivial or utterly ridiculous the charges were. This was because Satan could somehow harm the delator (accuser, informer).
    • Historical note: the actual Catholic Church thought the Malleus was the ravings of a madman, and its author had been excommunicated from the Church before he'd even finished it. It's as famous and widely used as it is because it was a favorite of the secular witch hunters of Europe, and some of the Protestant ones. The Catholics wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole, and standard Inquisitorial proceedings held out for a higher standard re: rules of evidence than the Malleus suggested.
      • Speaking of that, Kramer, the not so sane writer of the Malleus Maleficarum, also believed that Satan was somehow unable to harm witch-hunters and Judges working with them. He was convinced that if the delator was especially wealthy, he had to be trusted, because only poor people dabble in such things as witchcraft...
    • Torture was described as a reasonable, necessary way to elicit a truthful confession - in fact, the only way to have a proper probing (so to speak) of the accused.
      • Interestingly, this was contrary to later Church doctrine; while the Papal Inquisition started off using torture the results they got made them the first investigative body in human history to officially conclude that testimony obtained under torture was unreliable, because the victim would only tell you what you wanted to hear.
      • If the accused somehow didn't cry, the witch-hunter recommended to the proceding tribunal to give her an immediate death penalty or worse, because if she didn't cry after getting poked and prodded by red hot needles, getting her arms dislodged, and made to sit on a wooden horse with sharp edges right under her crotch, Satan had surely come to her aid by charming the witch not to feel the pain.
    • While the executions were carried out by secular courts, the witch-hunters were known and encouraged to take part in them. The aforementioned Kramer has been known to take part in such a trial. The prosecutor, a certain Mervais, reported him:
      • Throwing a tantrum because he wasn't given the original court recordings, but a copy, as were the other jurors. Denied the originals, he claimed to be "Far more important than anyone in court". When his request was granted out of sheer pity, he could just keep babbling and rambling, because the copies had the exact content of the originals, wihout any abridgment, as Mervais was trying to tell him.
      • Asking the accused, Helen Shuberin, irrelevant bits of information, such as the number of sexual encounters and the number of lovers she had, the exact number of times she masturbated, and other squicky bits of information.
      • When Mervais got so fed up that he risked excommunication by throwing Kramer out of his court, Kramer described the "Innsbruck Incident" in his Malleus in a really unflattering way towards Mervais and Helen.
    • It's also true, as some later historians would say, that not every witch was effectively sentenced to death. However, in the best case scenario the poor, misguided woman would be sentenced to a lifetime cycle of prayers and re-education. In the second worst scenario the offender would be be sentenced to wear some kind of permanent marking on her clothes, thus being shunned and reviled by anyone else, or get her tongue cut out to prevent her from teaching her heresy. Either way, her trial was just a convenient excuse to screw with her.
    • Also note that the offical records from the Catholic Church state quite few executions, for example, had Bernad Guis (= Bernado Gui of Name of the Rose fame) of 930 sentences 42 executions, 307 imprisoned. YMMV if you trust the records, though.
  • Withcraft trials were real and their effects cannot be discounted. Yet they were always worse where there were no senior Church Authorities to rein in the priests or Court of Appeal to enforce basic rules of procedure.
    • In fact, the Inquisition's own witch trials were the first judicial proceedings in Dark Ages Europe to evolve even a crude 'rules of evidence' approach, however incomplete it may have been, towards discovering the truth as opposed to merely relying on testimony and social prominence. The secular witch trials of the age, on the other hand, were absolutely infamous for making up their minds on the verdict first and then hearing the case. The part where the witch hunters and the local government got to split up the assets of those who were found guilty between them probably had something to do with that.
      • The Papal Inquisition is in fact a strong aversion of this trope -- it was the the second legal institution in history to place the burden of proof on the prosecution. The legal concept of "innocent until proven guilty" had originally been invented by the Roman Empire but had fallen entirely out of use after the fall of Rome... until deliberately reintroduced to Western civilization by the Inquisition.
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero, most famed orator and lawyer of the late Roman Republic, lost only one case (that we know of.) He lost that case because the man on trial accidentally-on-purpose murdered his political rival in full view of hundreds of witnesses, and more importantly (for he had gotten people off worse), at the trial there were a great many armed soldiers wanting a conviction and looking at him meaningfully throughout the proceedings.
    • Cicero's defense in this case, Pro Milone, could not even be completed, because Clodius (the victim, and a very popular man against whom many knew Cicero held a personal grudge) still had many living supporters, all of whom showed up on the day of the trial and caused a riot in the middle of Cicero's speech. Cicero was never even offered the chance to finish arguing his case. Milo, Cicero's client, is said to have later read the oration and said "If you'd finished reading this, I'd have won." The Roman court system was not known for its unshakable impartiality.
  • On a more lighthearted note: This has been done in professional sports clubhouses for years, right down to using the Trope Name. Players who make stupid plays in a game are brought before a "trial" of their teammates to be ridiculed and fined; the money is kept in a collection used to fund some type of party or event at season's end. One of the most famous examples was the Baltimore Orioles of the 1960s, where Frank Robinson was appointed the team judge and went so far as to wear a barrister wig during the proceedings.
  • The "rocket docket" foreclosure cases of the Great Recession of 2008 show a few characteristics, including incredibly brief trials which leave the victim no real chance to be heard and a failure to require proof of the basic facts (such as whether the plaintiff owns the mortgage document in question, such as whether signatures on documents are legit or the work of "robosigners" or straw persons). The objective was to clear a huge backlog of cases quickly, without regard for justice or the fates of those losing their homes. While the taxpayers were bailing out the big banks, the foreclosure victims of those same banks were often too poor to afford counsel - which didn't help.
  • Traffic court in most jurisdictions shows some aspects of this: specifically, an eagerness to enter a conviction based on no evidence other than the uncorroborated words of the police officer making the accusations. Traffic tickets are a profitable source of revenue for governments, who would not want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
  • In some cases, the legal proceedings of involuntary commitment follow the Kangaroo Court format. As the blogmistress of Crazy Mermaid details here, "Devon said that I had the option of not attending the hearing at all and just allowing her to represent me. I declined her strange offer. In retrospect, that should have been my first clue that the hearing was simply a formality, nothing more than a 'Kangaroo Court'. Its purpose was to fulfill the letter of the law but not the intent. My fate was already sealed."
  • Sir Walter Raleigh fell victim to one of these when he was charged with treason. The only material evidence presented against him was a signed statement from one of the conspirators of the Main Plot that planned to assassinate King James I. The Court denied his attempts to call the author of this letter for cross-examination. In spite of an excellent defense in court and essentially no evidence against him, he was convicted and sentenced to death. James spared his life in spite of the sentence, and imprisoned him for thirteen years. He was released to lead an expedition once again. That expedition went poorly, and the Spanish demanded his execution. He was executed in 1618 on the basis of his prior conviction.
  • It is believed by many that J. Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance hearing was one of these. Oppenheimer was the leader of the Manhattan Project that developed the Atomic Bomb, but earlier in life he had some friends and family members that were associated with the Communist Party. No one really made an issue of it during the war, but during the Second Red Scare in the early 1950s some of his political and scientific rivals used his former communist sympathies as an excuse to paint him as a traitor and a Soviet spy and end his career in government work. The Kennedy and Johnson administrations later attempted to publicly rehabilitate him shortly before his death in 1967. He was later Vindicated by History when extensive analysis of KGB records proved he never betrayed the United States and rebuffed all of their many attempts to recruit him.
  • At the time and since, some people argued that the Nuremberg Trials were an example of a kangaroo court. Certainly some of the offences the Germans were tried for could be equally applied to the Allies (especially the USSR) or were not recognized as crimes when they were committed, or indicted the Axis for breaching treaties they had not signed. Many of the basic rules of evidence for the civil justice systems of the democracies were removed. However, this rendition of events has been disputed by others, pointing out both the enormous crimes of those involved, and that, though terms like "genocide" were not universally agreed upon, there was at the very least a basic agreed ethical standard by which war should be conducted, and that the German generals and government obviously failed to live up to it, and noting that many of the defendants were acquitted on at least some (if not all) of the crimes they were charged with.
    • In addition, the Nuremberg Tribunals were adopted as a compromise between the Allies, as an alternative to several other proposals that were far closer to this trope than the Tribunals themselves were. You can imagine what Stalin's idea on what to do with the captured Germans after the war was like, for one.[4]
    • For that matter, at least one prominent Nazi officer -- Otto Skorzeny -- was acquitted at Nuremberg precisely because his attorney successfully argued that everything he had been accused of re: war crimes (sabotage, espionage, wearing enemy uniforms while attacking, etc.) was, although against the Geneva Conventions, still considered standard operating procedure by the OSS and British intelligence. So they could either acquit him, or convict their own special operations troops. The Tribunal acknowledged the fairness of this point and chose option #1.
    • You can read more here.
  • When Eugene V. Debs was prosecuted for publicly speaking out against the draft (a violation of the recently-passed Espionage Act, which forbade interfering with conscription) there was practically no chance of acquittal. His trial was essentially a political show, an attempt by President Woodrow Wilson to intimidate left-wing critics into silence, in a wartime climate of patriotism Americans were even more suspicious of the left than usual. Not that this mattered at all to Debs, he made the statement fully expecting to go to jail as a result, using the trial itself as a soapbox. Even while behind bars, he ran for President on the Socialist Party ticket (for the second time) and while he naturally didn’t win, he gained 913,000 votes, slightly more than he had in 1912, and almost half the Popular Vote. His perseverance led Wilson’s successor Warren G Harding (himself a conservative who was no fan of Debs either) commuting his sentence in 1921.
  1. In addition to the part where her main rival is the Empress' oldest surviving legitimately and publicly acknowledged child while the Roseblack herself barely qualifies as great-great-great-granddaughter, just to make her position even worse her grandfather -- through which her descent from the Imperial line runs -- is still alive.
  2. The Imperial Senate, which gets to name the successor in a disputed case, is not only entirely unable to form a quorum on this issue but she isn't even the leading candidate in it.
  3. Sora first has to select one box out of five. Two have Heartless, one has Donald, one has Goofy, and one has both Donald and Goofy. No matter what box is picked, the Boss fight starts, but picking a box with Donald and/or Goofy means the selected party member is trapped in a cage, meaning Sora has to start the fight against the Queen and her men without them.
  4. Answer: Summary execution without trial for every German officer on down to the second lieutenants, and every civil servant of equivalent seniority. Churchill's own proposal was nowhere near this, errr, Stalinesque, but was still far less forgiving and more arbitrary than the actual Tribuanals themselves were.