Sunday, January 9, 2011

Judge John Roll Shot And Killed At Safeway In Tuscon, Arizona.

Chief Judge John M. Roll of the U.S. District Court of Arizona was shot and killed on January 8, 2011 in front of a Tucson, Arizona Safeway grocery store. He was 63.

The judge lived just a few blocks away from the supermarket. He had gone to mass and decided to stop at the store on his way home, according to Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.

The shooter has been identified as Jared Loughner, 22. He is in custody.

The gun used in the shooting was purchased legally at a Sportman's Warehouse.

FBI Director Robert Mueller is in Arizona to help coordinate the investigation, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced. “We will hold accountable anyone responsible for these heinous acts,” he said.

President Obama praised the judge for having "served America’s legal system for almost 40 years." Authorities do not yet know "what provoked this unspeakable act," the President said in remarks this afternoon.

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts said in a written statement that "Judge Roll’s death is a somber reminder of the importance of the rule of law and the sacrifices of those who work to secure it."

Arizona Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch remembered Judge Roll as "a kind man, a wise and fair jurist, and a friend to many within the legal community".

ABA President Stephen N. Zack called the shootings "a direct attack on our American way of life and the rule of law" and said Judge Roll was "a respected and admired jurist."

"This shocking and frightening event emphasizes the importance of protecting and respecting our civic life, and all those who participate in it," Zack said.

Judge Roll was nominated to the bench in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush. He had served as chief judge since 2006.

Judge Roll received his J.D. from University of Arizona College of Law in 1972 and a LL.M. from University of Virginia School of Law in 1990. He had served as a prosecutor for Tucson, Pima County and the U.S. Department of Justice in Arizona. He was a judge on Arizona’s Court of Appeals from 1987 to 1991, including serving as its presiding judge from 1988 to 1991.

Roll himself had been the subject of death threats in 2009, when he presided over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher.

When Roll ruled the case could go forward, he received more than 200 calls from members of the public in a single afternoon, U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales said.

Roll and his wife were given protection for about a month. "It was unnerving and invasive...By its nature it has to be," Roll said at the time.

Law enforcement officials identified four individuals responsible for the threats, but recommended the judge not seek prosecution. The judge took the Marshals advice.

"I have a very strong belief that there is nothing wrong with criticizing a judicial decision," Roll said. "But when it comes to threats, that is an entirely different matter."

According to federal courts spokesman David Sellers, the last federal judge to have been assassinated while in office was U.S. District Judge Robert Smith Vance, who was killed on December 16, 1989 by a mail bomb at his home in Alabama. Last year, Judge Roll’s colleague Judge Susan Bolton was threatened both before and after she issued a ruling on Arizona's controversial new immigration measure. The threats prompted U.S. Marshals to increase security at federal courthouses in the state, reports Politics Daily columnist Andrew Cohen.

Previous coverage: reported in May 2009 that "Security Worries Spur Some Judges to Pack Heat, Use 24-Hour Guards"

John M. Roll, the chief federal judge in Arizona, was fatally wounded in the attack that killed five others and wounded at least 18 people.

“We’re all in kind of a state of shock here,” said Richard H. Weare, the clerk of the Federal District Court for Arizona, after hearing from the Federal Marshals Service, which confirmed the death.
President Obama praised Judge Roll as a jurist “who has served America’s legal system for almost 40 years.”

Judge Roll was appointed by the first President George Bush in 1991 and has been chief judge since 2006. His district is part of the sprawling Ninth Circuit, which covers federal courts throughout the West. He served as a state judge and as an assistant United States attorney for Arizona before he was appointed to the federal bench.

The chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Alex Kozinski, described Judge Roll as a tireless advocate for his district: “Of all the chief judges of the circuit, I must say he was always the hardest working — always looking out for his district. He’ll be a great loss to his family, but he’ll also be a great loss to the federal judiciary.”

He said Judge Roll was a good friend who sought increased federal resources for his district, which had seen a surge in felony cases related to drugs and crime along the border with Mexico.

Judge Roll was no stranger to the risks of public service. He and his wife were provided protection by the Federal Marshals Service in 2009 in connection with a case in which a group of Mexicans sued an Arizona rancher for $32 million. They accused the rancher of civil right abuses for stopping people at gunpoint as they crossed his land and then turning them over to the Border Patrol.

After Judge Roll ruled that the case could go forward, he received death threats. Judge Roll told The Arizona Republic that the situation was “unnerving and invasive.”

When several of those making the threats were identified, he declined to press charges at the recommendation of the Marshals Service.

“I have a very strong belief that there is nothing wrong with criticizing a judicial decision,” he said. “But when it comes to threats, that is an entirely different matter.”

John McCarthy Roll was born in Pittsburgh and graduated from the University of Arizona in 1969 and the university’s law school in 1972. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons and five grandchildren.

Killings of federal judges are rare. The last to be murdered in office was Judge Robert Vance, who was killed by a mail bomb at his home in Mountain Brook, Ala., in 1989.

On Dec. 21, Judge Roll sent an e-mail to Judge Kozinski with an attached letter from Ms. Giffords and another member of Congress from Arizona, Ed Pastor, a Democrat. The two members of Congress encouraged the Ninth Circuit to “declare a judicial emergency” to help cope with the increased workload by extending deadlines under the speedy trial act. In the e-mail, Judge Roll wrote that the Congressional letter was “unsolicited but very much appreciated.”

Judge Kozinski speculated — “just a guess,” he said — that Judge Roll might have gone to the event on Saturday to thank Ms. Giffords for the letter. “And he gets killed for it.”

Judge Kozinski added, “If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us.”

In a statement, John G. Roberts Jr., the chief justice of the United States, said: ”We in the judiciary have suffered the terrible loss of one of our own. Judge John Roll was a wise jurist who selflessly served Arizona and the nation with great distinction.”

Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who lives in Arizona, said she was devastated by the news. “It is a horrible event, and heartbreaking,” she said. “The judge was just wonderful.”

“It sounds like something that might happen in some place like Afghanistan,” she said. “It shouldn’t happen in Tucson, Ariz., or anyplace else in the United States.”

No comments: