THE COURT IN JUBA VERSUS THE COURT IN JUDA AND THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE ‘KANGAROO COURT’ AND THE ‘SANHEDRIN COURT’.
This is Easter, where no magi came from the east to ease the tension around the open public court in the district of Judaea. The jury appointed by Pontius Pilate turn out to be Pilate’s Pirates of the Law. They are called The Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin condemn the right man and acquit the wrong man. They act according to the directives from the mob justice and the bias governor. Today, this kind of justice system is called ‘Kangaroo Court’. Before we go into the detail of how similar the two court systems are, let’s first have quick glimpse into the definition of a ‘kangaroo court’.
‘ORIGIN AND MEANING OF A KANGAROO COURT’
One of the strangest aspects of “kangaroo court” is that the phrase is not originally from Australia, which is the only place you’ll find actual kangaroos. The first “kangaroo courts” were informal tribunals set up to dispense instant justice in the American West in the 1850’s, before conventional court systems existed on the frontier. Later on, “kangaroo court” was used to describe mock courts set up by penitentiary prisoners to intimidate and extort money from new inmates. Today we usually use the term to mean any court whose verdict is arranged in advance or otherwise clearly unfair.
There is some debate over the origin of the term kangaroo court, but some sources suggest that it may have been popularized during the California Gold Rush of 1848, as a description of the hastily carried-out proceedings used to deal with the issue of claim jumping miners. Other sources claim that the term comes from the notion of justice proceeding “by leaps”, like a kangaroo. Some[who?] have suggested that the phrase could refer to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone’s pocket. The phrase is popular in the US, Australia and New Zealand and is still in common use
According to the freedictionary.com, A kangaroo court is an unfair, biased, or hasty judicial proceeding that ends in a harsh punishment; an unauthorized trial conducted by individuals who have taken the law into their own hands, such as those put on by vigilantes or prison inmates; a proceeding and its leaders who are considered sham, corrupt, and without regard for the law.
The concept of kangaroo court dates to the early nineteenth century. Scholars trace its origin to the historical practice of itinerant judges on the U.S. frontier. These roving judges were paid on the basis of how many trials they conducted, and in some instances their salary depended on the fines from the defendants they convicted. The term kangaroo court comes from the image of these judges hopping from place to place, guided less by concern for justice than by the desire to wrap up as many trials as the day allowed.
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 for the purpose of providing a conviction, going through the motions of procedure is simply done to make it “official”. The defendant will likely be allowed no defense and not allowed to make motions or objections. If they are allowed, they will be summarily overruled by the Hanging Judge that usually presides over the trial in question. If the trial results in a death sentence, some people will use the term “judicial murder” to describe it.
This one is unfortunately this predetermined dispensing of justice is common, especially in countries ruled by dictators, who are fond of putting dissidents through “show trials” as a prelude to execution. The etymology is unknown, though many (mostly wrong) suggestions have been made.
Very rarely, the reaction to these can in fact be Kick the Son of a Bitch, if the court’s victim is a particularly despicable villain. Seeing them getting their just desserts may be incredibly therapeutic both for the protagonists and the audience.
A kangaroo court is a judicial tribunal or assembly that blatantly disregards recognized standards of law or justice, and often carries little or no official standing in the territory within which it resides. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted“.
A kangaroo court is often held by a group or a community to give the appearance of a fair and just trial, even though the verdict has in reality already been decided before the trial has begun. Such courts typically take place in rural areas where legitimate law enforcement may be limited. The term may also apply to a court held by a legitimate judicial authority who intentionally disregards the court’s legal or ethical obligations.
MEANING AND ORIGIN OF THE ‘SANHEDRIN COURT’
The Sanhedrin was the supreme council, or court, in ancient Israel.
The Sanhedrin was comprised of 70 men, plus the high priest, who served as its president. The members came from the chief priests, scribes and elders, but there is no record on how they were chosen.
During the time of the Roman governors, such as Pontius Pilate, the Sanhedrin had jurisdiction only over the province of Judea. The Sanhedrin had its own police force which could arrest people, as they did Jesus Christ. While the Sanhedrin heard both civil and criminal cases and could impose the death penalty, in New Testament times it did not have the authority to execute convicted criminals. That power was reserved to the Romans, which explains why Jesus was crucified—a Roman punishment—rather than stoned, according to Mosaic law.
The Sanhedrin was abolished with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.
There is lack of positive historical information as to the origin of the Sanhedrin. According to Jewish tradition (compare Sanhedrin 16) it was constituted by Moses (Numbers 11:16-24) and was reorganized by Ezra immediately after the return from exile (compare the Targum to Song of Solomon 6:1). But there is no historical evidence to show that previous to the Greek period there existed an organized aristocratic governing tribunal among the Jews. Its beginning is to be placed at the period in which Asia was convulsed by Alexander the Great and his successors.
During the Roman period (except for about 10 years at the time of Gabinius, who applied to Judea the Roman system of government; compare Marquardt, Romische Staatsverwaltung, I, 501), the Sanhedrin’s influence was most powerful, the internal government of the country being practically in its hands (Ant., XX, x), and it was religiously recognized even among the Diaspora (compare Acts 9:2; 22:5; 26:12). According to Schurer (HJP, div II, volume 1, 171; GJV4, 236) the civil authority of the Sanhedrin, from the time of Archelaus, Herod the Great’s son, was probably restricted to Judea proper, and for that reason, he thinks, it had no judicial authority over our Lord so long as He remained in Galilee (but see G.A. Smith, Jerusalem, I, 416).
In the time of Christ the Great Sanhedrin at Jerusalem enjoyed a very high measure of independence. It exercised not only civil jurisdiction, according to Jewish law, but also, in some degree, criminal. It had administrative authority and could order arrests by its own officers of justice (Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:43; Acts 4:3; 5:17; 9:2; compare Sanhedrin 1 5). It was empowered to judge cases which did not involve capital punishment, which latter required the confirmation of the Roman procurator (John 18:31; compare the Jerusalem Sanhedrin 1 1; 7 2 (p. 24); Josephus, Ant, XX, ix, 1). But, as a rule, the procurator arranged his judgment in accordance with the demands of the Sanhedrin.
For one offense the Sanhedrin could put to death, on their own authority, even a Roman citizen, namely, in the case of a Gentile passing the fence which divided the inner court of the Temple from that of the Gentiles (BJ, VI, ii, 4; Middoth 11 3; compare Acts 21:28). The only case of capital punishment in connection with the Sanhedrin in the New Testament is that of our Lord. The stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:54) was probably the illegal act of an enraged multitude.
The members of the Sanhedrin were arranged in a semicircle, so that they could see each other (Sanhedrin 4 3; Tosephta’ 8 1). The two notaries stood before them, whose duty it was to record the votes (see 3, above). The prisoner had to appear in humble attitude and dressed it, mourning (Ant., XIV, ix, 4). A sentence of capital punishment could not be passed on the day of the trial. The decision of the judges had to be examined on the following day (Sanhedrin 4 1), except in the case of a person who misled the people, who could be tried and condemned the same day or in the night (Tosephta’ Sanhedrin 10). Because of this, cases which involved capital punishment were not tried on a Friday or on any day before a feast. A herald preceded the condemned one as he was led to the place of execution, and cried out:
“N. the son of N. has been found guilty of death, etc. If anyone knows anything to clear him, let him come forward and declare it” (Sanhedrin 6 1). Near the place of execution the condemned man was asked to confess his guilt in order that he might partake in the world to come (ibid.; compare Luke 23:41-43).
SANHEDRIN versus KANGAROO
There are stark historical differences but crystal clear similarities between the court that sat in Jerusalem in the region of Judaea during the times of Jesus Christ or the court that sits in Juba during this time of the South Sudanese liberation struggle.
1- The Sanhedrin and the Kangaroo judge cases which are already predetermined by the higher authorities.
2- Both court cases are open to the public, which is dictating the directions of the court.
3- In both cases, the jury takes directives ‘From Above’.
4- In the Sanhedrin just like in the Kangaroo, the court is weak and always infiltrated or intimidated by Security Agents from the state.
5- In both cases, the head of state (Pontius Pilate of Judaea and his present equivalent in Juba) is seen to have sought reprieve (say ‘Amnesty’ the Juba way) but their advisers force them to condemn the innocent.
6- In the two courts, the witnesses and evidences are shaky and cannot be trusted since they are coached.
7- In the Jerusalem just like in the Juba justice system today, the wrong persons are allowed to go Scott-free whereas the innocent ones are crowned scapegoats (Jesus versus Barabas).
8- In these cases, the judges and court officials are appointed by politicians in power.
9- The Sanhedrin and the Kangaroo councils are faced with choosing between justice or allegiance to their bosses and material wealth
10- Finally, both courts are handling highly sensitive ideological cases of public interests.
Just for your Easter, continue reading from my previous column, MY STATE DIARY in The Star Newspaper and ‘STATE VERSUS RELIGION’ in The New Sudan Christian (now The Christian Times) in the following links: