Death of Judge John Roll, the ‘Hardest Working’ Judge in the 9th Circuit

The death of federal Judge John Roll is a loss of ‘one of our own,’ said Chief Justice John Roberts (Los Angeles Times). Judge Roll died in the attack Saturday morning in Tucson that left five others dead and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded.  In 2009, Judge Roll had faced death threats after he ruled in favor of a group of illegal immigrants in a civil rights case.

On Saturday, Judge Roll had attended a daily mass at the cathedral in downtown Tucson. He had just walked up to Congresswoman Giffords at a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event she was holding and shouted ‘”hi”‘ when Jared Lee Loughner approached and shot him, according to the New York Times. Loughner, was charged today with one count of attempting to kill a member of Congress, two counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. As reported in today’s New York Times, documents seized from Loughner’s house suggest that he had planned to kill Representative Giffords:

Found in Mr. Loughner’s home, F.B.I. special agent Tony M. Tayler Jr. said in an affidavit supporting the charges, was an envelope with the handwritten words, “I planned ahead,” “My assassination,” and “Giffords.”

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’ and ‘”the hardest working.”‘ As to why Judge Roll went to Congresswoman’s ‘Congress in the Streets’ events at a Tucson shopping mall on Saturday, Judge Kozinski speculated that he had gone to thank her for a letter regarding the increased workload that the Ninth Circuit was facing:

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.”

It is rare for federal judges to be killed, according to the New York Times which cited the killing of Judge Robert Vance in 1989, who died when a mail bomb that had been to his home in Mountain Brook, Alabama, detonated.

Judge Roll had faced death threats in 2009 after presiding over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by a group of illegal immigrants from Mexico against a rancher. The rancher stopped them at gunpoint as they crossed his land and turned them over to the Border Patrol.  Judge Roll ruled that the civil rights case could go forward. Afterwards, as noted in the January 9th Arizona Republic, talk-radio shows ‘cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats,’ with one radio host logging more than 200 phone calls threatening the judge and his family; details of his personal information were posted online. Judge Roll and his wife were provided protection by the Federal Marshals Service in 2009. 

Sseveral of those who were making the threats were identified, but Judge Roll declined to press charges. As he told the Arizona Republic

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

President Obama praised Judge Roll for having ‘“..served America’s legal system for almost 40 years.’ Judge Roll was appointed to the judiciary under the first President Bush in 1991. He became Chief Judge in 2006. 

Judge Roll was born in Pittsburgh in 1947. He is survived by his wife, three sons, and five grandchildren.

Photo by from wikipedia.


LMj Sunshine

Sad loss.

LMj Sunshine

Sad loss.

LMj Sunshine

Sad loss.

Baby N.
Baby N.5 years ago

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jane richmond
jane richmond6 years ago

A great loss to ALL!

Olga Leonenko
Olga Leonenko6 years ago

All in all it is such a heartbreaking story, my heart goes out to the victims and their family. Life is so fragile.

Gloria W.
Gloria W.6 years ago

Very sad!!!

Chris C.
Chris C.6 years ago

To Fred M.

Your right if that was a Republican event there would have been plenty of guns in the crowd, its Arizona buddy open carry policy, I bet you my bottom dollar that if that crap was pulled at an event where civilians were carrying, there would have been at most 2 people victimized, one being Mr.Loughner. Go through and survey every person that has committed a firearm offense in the last year, tally up the number of persons with not only the proper knowledge and use of a firearm, but also allow them to outline their social and formal educations, I will guarantee you that these persons, with the exception of a small percentage, lack the capacity to think through and analyze their issues whatever they may be, due to inadequate education on social interaction, personal accountability, and moral responsibility.

Start educating and protecting each other, the more regulations we put on safe operators, the more power we give to those that blatantly disregard the law.

It is a terrible thing to think that we need to educate our entire populous on safe gun practice, but hey this is one of the most violent eras in our history in regards to civilian violence, it was safer in the 1800s when everyone was armed, its not pretty but people don't like to get shot at, and well there really isnt much to divert this type of crime aside from a lengthy manhunt. Bad things happen, and guess what politics isnt always the catalyst so stop pretending it is. Your ignorance is blinding.

Rosi Caswell

Whatever the circumstances people have died. May they find Peace and Light. Love and Blessings to those who mourn. Rosi Caswell Animal/Human Therapist, Metaphysical Counsellor

Linda L.
Linda L6 years ago

thank you for sharing