Kangaroo Court

Posted by Jim on December 05, 2001 at

I understand that a "kangaroo court" is a sham or mock trial. My Webster Collegiate lists the phrase as first appearing in 1853. I found a web reference that speculates the phrase may be connected to the 1840s gold rush in California. Did "kangaroo court" originate in the gold rush era to describe the ad hoc process of resolving "claim jumping" charges? For example, is kangaroo court a humorous allusion for a "jumping court" to resolve "claim jumping" charges, or is the reference more an indication of the helter-skelter nature of the proceeding?