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A kangaroo court is a mock court designed to not allow the defendants a fair trial. These unjust trials are often used to silence and imprison political activists who protest and openly speak out against oppressive regimes.

The term was first used around 1850 during the California gold rush. Informal courts were held to stop illegal prospectors, known as claim-jumpers, many of whom were from Australia.

Kangaroo Courts are not all that negative, however. They can be used as a means of diversion and entertainment.

A long time ago in a since-lost copy of InQuest magazine, I stumbled across a rules variant for Magic: The Gathering, named Kangaroo Court Rules. In this game, there are the normal two players, but there is also a judge. The judge's responsibility is to rule on arguments by the players as to the validity of certain moves. For example, say Player 1 has a Blood Moon, and Player 2 puts a Bad Moon into play. Player 2 could propose that since there can't be two moons, Player 1's Blood Moon should be removed from the game. At this point, the judge considers it and renders a verdict. Smart judges will record their decisions, as over time precidents can change the face of such games.

Also, some professional sports teams (notably the Denver Broncos, who run a kangaroo court so popular that SportsCenter did a report on it) run kangaroo courts. These consist of "fines" for such things as scoring a touchdown, partaking in a bad victory dance, or appearing on television or being quoted on the news. At the end of the year, the money collected from these fines goes towards the year-end team party.

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