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Moment of Silence Observed After Massacre

In a rare interruption of its public session, the Supreme Court paused for a moment of silence Monday to honor the victims of a shooting rampage in Arizona, including a federal judge.

The “senseless shooting on Saturday caused devastating injury to persons who all, in their own way, contribute to the strength of our nation,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told the courtroom, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

Among six people killed was Judge John Roll of Arizona, who Chief Justice Roberts recalled as “a dedicated member of the federal judiciary.” Critically wounded was U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

President Obama led a moment of silence at the White House, and observers gathered at the U.S. Capitol, as well.

Various profiles of the chief judge for the Arizona district described him as fair-minded, conservative, and as a champion for greater resources for the court.

“He was very committed to maintaining the integrity of the system,” said lawyer Richard Martinez of Tucson, who appeared before Judge Roll over 20 years, according to a Blog of Legal Times post. Read more

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Judges Shaken by Colleague’s Killing

Judge John M. Roll wasn’t the target of a gunman outside a Tucson supermarket. Even so, the 63-year-old federal judge’s slaying was hugely unsettling to other federal judges, even beyond the loss of one of their colleagues.

In an era of rising threats against judges, Judge Roll’s fatal shooting raised troubling questions, TIME reported in an article entitled, “Why the Tucson Massacre Has Rattled U.S. Judges.”

The news of Judge Roll’s murder — which occurred when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others also were shot Saturday –  was “very disturbing, just when we were beginning to feel secure,” U.S. Judge Robert Gettleman of Chicago told the magazine shortly after the rampage. He continued:

“As judges I’m confident most all of us would like to feel safe as participants in our communities without believing we need special protection. I hope that’s the norm, although recent events may indicate otherwise. We certainly don’t want to live our lives like judges in some other countries (like Russia, Kenya) must, under constant guard.”

Judge Roll had received death threats, and angry callers swamped his telephone lines, after he ruled in 2009 that a lawsuit by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher could go forward. The judge received federal security around the clock for a month.

But he apparently was an innocent bystander when he was shot fatally. Judge Roll, the chief judge in the Arizona district, had shown up to thank Giffords for signing a letter written to Judge Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It urged designation of Judge Roll’s district as a judicial emergency because of the high number of immigration cases, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Read more

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Reports: Slain Judge an Innocent Bystander?

He had received death threats in the past. But Chief Judge John M. Roll of the federal district court in Arizona apparently was an innocent bystander when he was slain during a shooting rampage that gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a law enforcement official said.

Judge Roll, 63, had gone to Mass nearby and decided to stop and greet Giffords, D-Ariz., who was a close friend, Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times.

When a gunman started shooting in an area outside the supermarket where Giffords was meeting constituents, six people were killed and 12 wounded. Giffords was the apparent target.

Another account came in a Washington Post article. It said Judge Roll was departing a supermarket nearby when he saw an aide to Giffords whom he knew and stopped to say hello, according to a Giffords spokeswoman.

In the 20th century, three federal judges were assassinated, the last in 1989, suggesting that killings of federal judges are rare. But threats on judges and prosecutors have more than doubled since 2003 (see Gavel Grab post.)

There were hundreds of anonymous threats made against Judge Roll two years ago, when he ruled that a $32 million civil rights lawsuit against a rancher, filed by illegal immigrants, could go forward. He was the subject of talk-radio discussion, was a target of criticism by angry conservatives, and was put under 24-hour surveillance by the U.S. Marshal Service.

He chose not to press charges when several threat suspects were identified. Read more

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Federal Judge Fatally Shot in AZ Attack

BULLETIN: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said Judge John Roll “was a wise jurist who selflessly served Arizona and the nation with great distinction, as attorney and judge, for more than 35 years….Chief 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.”

When Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others were shot in an attack Saturday in Tucson, Arizona, a federal district judge was among those slain.

Judge John Roll was shot fatally, U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales confirmed to the Associated Press.

Judge Roll “been involved in immigration cases and had previously received death threats,” according to a New York Times article.

At least five people were killed in the attack, President Obama said. He mentioned Judge Roll among them and said the judge “has served America’s legal system for almost 40 years.”

A suspect was taken into custody. The attacker “sprayed bullets into an area where the Democratic lawmaker was hosting a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ event at a Safeway supermarket,” CBS News reported.

Obama said in his late afternoon remarks that Giffords was at a hospital in the Tucson area. He called the shootings an “unspeakable act” and lamented “a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country.”

“Our thoughts go out to the family members of those who have been slain,” the president said.

According to the Above the Law blog, Judge Roll was nominated in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush and was chief judge since 2006. He was a 1972 graduate of the University of Arizona.

The Arizona Republic reported that he faced death threats in 2009 “over a $32 million civil-rights suit filed against an Arizona rancher by illegal immigrants.” The jurist and his wife were put under federal protection for a month. He called that process “unnerving and invasive.”

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