Gavel Grab

Archive for the ‘Violence Against Judges’ Category

Security Concerns Debated After Robbery of Justice Breyer

The robbery of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer at his vacation home on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean has raised again the question of how much security protection the justices should get.

A Blog of Legal Times post summarized the ways that justices may be protected:

“[W]hen they are at public events in the D.C. area, justices are typically accompanied by Supreme Court police; when they are in the rest of the country, officers from the local U.S. marshal’s office are seen providing security. When they travel abroad, security appears to be handled through the U.S. embassy at their destination.”

Brian Todd said in a CNN broadcast the robbery of Justice Breyer by a machete-wielding intruder raises the question, “Are America’s top judicial figures adequately protected?” Todd did not give an answer. His report included an interview with a former U.S. Secret Service director who said full-time security for the justices, which is not provided now, would be both expensive and invasive to privacy.

Initial news reports did not indicate that Justice Breyer’s robber knew the identity of his intended victim. The CNN report alluded to the killing of family members of a Chicago federal judge in 2005. In that case, a man frustrated over a failed lawsuit later was identified as the killer of the mother and husband of Judge Joan Lefkow, after the man had committed suicide.

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Justice Breyer a Robbery Victim in Caribbean

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was robbed last week at his vacation home in the Caribbean island of Nevis by an intruder wielding a machete. Justice Breyer’s wife and two others were in the vacation home at the time, and nobody was hurt, court officials said; $1,000 in cash was taken.

“Attacks on members of the federal judiciary are not new,” a CNN article said, and it mentioned an assault on then-Justice David Souter by a group of young males in 2004, when he was jogging alone; and an attack on Justice Byron White while delivering a speech in Utah in 1982. “That incident led to regular protection by U.S. marshals for members of the court when they travel,” CNN said.

In 2011, Federal Judge John Roll of Arizona was slain in a shooting rampage that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed five others (see Gavel Grab).


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Suspect in AZ Shootings Found Unfit for Trial

Jared Loughner, accused in an Arizona shooting spree that killed a federal judge and wounded a congresswoman, was found Wednesday not mentally competent to stand trial.

Judge Larry A. Burns of Federal District Court made the ruling, according to a New York Times article, and Loughner will be held in a pyschiatric facility as a result.

Six people, including Judge John Roll, were killed in the January rampage and 13, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, were injured (see Gavel Grab).

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AL Judge Pulls Gun in Courtroom Fray

A Municipal Court judge in Alabama pulled a gun when a defendant tried to hit the judge with a crutch in the courtroom. Then the defendant tried to get the judge’s gun and was shot by a police officer, a state trooper told the Birmingham News.

“When he tried to attack the judge, the judge pulled out a firearm to defend himself. As he (the defendant) was trying to pull the gun from the judge, that’s when the police officer shot him,” Trooper Chad Joiner said.

In the rural courtroom, the defendant went wild after he was convicted of harassment, a witness told the Associated Press; there were varying eyewitness accounts of the incident.

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‘Judicial Emergency’ Declared in Arizona

A federal judge in Arizona has declared a judicial emergency, effectively relaxing the time limits set for trying accused criminals in court.

Judge John M. Roll was waiting to talk to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords about an overload of cases facing the federal courts in Arizona when both were shot outside a Tucson supermarket Jan. 8 (see Gavel Grab). Judge Roll was among six people who died. His successor as chief federal district judge, Roslyn O. Silver, subsequently declared the emergency, according to an Arizona Republic article, entitled “Judge John Roll’s Death Prompts Judicial Emergency.”

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said he was hopeful that Congress would take action in response to the emergency declaration.

According to the Arizona Republic, amid clamor for tougher enforcement of drug and immigration laws, federal felony caseloads have soared to a record high in the state; and judicial appointments have slowed due to partisan politics in Washington. Judge Roll’s slaying worsened the problem. He had sought an emergency declaration.

“The district court in Arizona urgently needs additional resources. Judicial vacancies need to be filled and new judgeships should be given strong consideration,” the Wall Street Journal quoted Judge Kozinski as saying.

The federal court in Arizona claims the highest criminal caseload in the region covered by the Ninth Circuit and the third-highest caseload in the nation. Two districts in Texas rank ahead of it. Read more

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Judge Roll Called ‘Hero’ for Actions

The federal judge who was slain in Arizona appears to have tried to save the life of another man at the Tucson shooting scene, according to an investigator who watched surveillance video.

Chris Nanos, a captain with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, told the Wall Street Journal that Judge John M. Roll (photo at left) can be seen in a video pushing Ron Barber, an aide to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, to the ground. Rep. Giffords apparently was shot first; Barber (photo at right) survived.

“It looks to us as though he is pushing against Ron Barber to move him out of the way,” Nanos said.

“Both men fall to the ground; both are shot. The judge was shot in the back and died,” the newspaper said in describing the sequence of events.

“It’s pretty evident to me that Judge Roll was a hero … if Judge Roll had not pushed Mr. Barber his wounds might have been fatal,” Nanos added. “Judge Roll’s actions are of a man trying to save another man’s life.”

Richard Kastigar, the investigative and operational bureau chief of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, was quoted by a New York Times article as saying it appeared that Judge Roll died while trying to save Barber’s life.

“It’s very clear to me the judge was thinking of his fellow human more than himself,” Kastigar said.  Here is that newspaper’s report, based on Kastigar’s account: Read more

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Judge Roll is Mourned in Tucson

Federal Judge John M. Roll of Arizona, remembered by lawyers as a model of fairness, was mourned by nearly two thousand people –  including fellow judges and dignitaries — at a funeral service in Tucson Friday.

Chief District Judge Roll had received numerous threats over his handling of a controversial case involving illegal immigrants two years ago. But his death came outside a supermarket when a gunman launched an attack apparently targeted at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six bystanders, including Judge Roll.

On Wednesday President Obama said the judge’s colleagues  “described him as the hardest-working judge” within the territory of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the New York Times reported.

When Judge Roll handled the dispute that became known on talk radio as “the illegal immigrants vs. the vigilante rancher,” he was respected by lawyers on both sides as a model of fairness, according to a Los Angeles Times profile.

Four large coach buses brought dozens of judges Friday to the funeral service at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, the Associated Press reported, and the following were among dignitaries at the service, amid tight security: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer; U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl; and former Vice President Dan Quayle.

Judge Roll was a strong advocate in seeking additional courts and judges to cope with the increasing workload of federal cases tied to illegal immigration.

Only a week before he was slain, he declared a judicial emergency in southern Arizona, the Los Angeles Times said. Judge Roll reported that federal felony cases brought in Tucson had shot up from 1,564 to 3,289 in two years, and he noted, “We’ve reached a choke point.” According to some accounts, he stopped at the supermarket to talk about judicial caseload with Rep. Giffords. Read more

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Tight Security for Judge’s Funeral in Tucson

When a funeral service is held in Tucson Friday for murdered federal Judge John M. Roll, judges from around the nation are expected to attend amid ultra-tight security.

“I can’t give a specific number, but there are about 100-plus judges who are coming in from all over the country, from Supreme Court justices to district judges,” said U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales, according to a report by radio station KTAR.

An extremist church in Kansas said it would not hold planned protests outside the funeral planned today for 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green, and Friday for Judge Roll, in a deal it made for radio airtime, according to a Los Angeles Times article.

The Westboro Baptist Church earlier had announced a protest outside the judge’s funeral because  the church thought his colleagues in the judiciary had acted against the church’s interests.

Judge Roll was shot fatally Saturday at an event hosted by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., to meet constituents; she was critically wounded, and five other people were killed.

Shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner will be tried by federal district Judge Larry Burns of San Diego, the Arizona Republic reported. All Arizona’s federal judges recused themselves from the case due to personal and professional ties with Judge Roll.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a judicial emergency exists in Arizona, where three of 12 federal judgeships are open, according to the Los Angeles Times. Some news media have reported that Judge Roll went to the Saturday event to talk to Giffords about the heavy judicial caseload in the district (see Gavel Grab).

Judge Kozinski urged swift action by the White House and Senate to fill the vacancies.

“I hate to take advantage of such a tragedy, but if this brings public attention to the pressing need of filling vacancies then that would be a welcome result,” he said.

On Wednesday evening, President Obama attended memorial services in Tucson, eulogizing the six slaying victims and offering prayers for those who were wounded, the New York Times reported. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, of Arizona, were in attendance. You can watch Obama’s remarks by clicking on the C-SPAN video above.

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All U.S. Judges in AZ May Recuse in Shooting Case

Arizona’s complete federal judiciary is considering stepping aside from involvement in the murder trial of accused murderer Jared Loughner, to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Chief District Judge John M. Roll was shot fatally in a rampage Saturday that apparently targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Loughner was charged in a federal complaint with attempting to assassinate Giffords and killing Judge Roll and a Giffords staff member.

Federal judges in the Tucson division disqualified themselves before a court appearance by Loughner Monday, according to a USA Today article. “We are awaiting official word from the court’s Phoenix division regarding recusal of the judges there,” said David Madden, assistant circuit executive for the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Loughner lawyer Judy Clarke signaled intention to question the impartiality of both federal judges and prosecutors in Arizona.
“There is great concern with proceeding any further than today with Arizona judges,” Clarke told a federal magistrate.

President Obama was to attend a memorial service in Tucson for victims of the mass shooting later Wednesday. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was among those expected to attend. In Washington, members of the House of Representatives convened to honor the victims, the New York Times reported.

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Action Urged to Honor Judge Roll

President Obama will attend a memorial service in Tucson Wednesday to honor victims of the shooting rampage.

While Obama is likely to touch on the killing of Chief District Judge John M. Roll, one of 20 people shot in the attack that apparently targeted Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, other personal tributes have begun flowing.

Chief Judge Raymond Dearie of New York’s Eastern District said there would be no better way to honor the fallen judge than for his colleagues to volunteer to share the workload of courts along the U.S. border with Mexico. Thousands of immigration cases have placed these courts “under siege,” he told the New York Law Journal.

In the Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, Andrew Clevenger wrote in a commentary that President George H.W. Bush nominated Judge Roll on Sept. 23, 1991, and the Senate unanimously confirmed him less than two months later. That speedy confirmation rate seems “unthinkable” today, said Clevenger, who urged:

“While proclamations and heightened focus on judicial security are all well and good, the Senate can best honor Judge Roll by living up to its obligation to confirm qualified judges in a timely manner.”

In advance of the holiday celebrating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the shootings “an unspeakable tragedy.” He added, according to a text of his speech:

“Without question, threats against public officials – whatever form they take – continue to be cause for concern and vigilance.   But I do not believe that these threats are as strong as the forces working for tolerance and peace.”

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