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.
As Gavel Grab has mentioned earlier, Judge Roll’s fatal shooting has shaken colleagues on the bench who have been concerned about security.
Efforts in state legislatures to respond to the need for judges to balance openness and security are explored in a recent edition of Gavel to Gavel, a publication of the National Center for State Courts. It is a partner group of the Justice at Stake Campaign.
Meanwhile retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an Arizona resident, issued a public statement responding to the Arizona shooting rampage.
“We must reject violence and hostility and bring civility and rationale dialogue into our government and our community life. This is a responsibility of every one of us as individuals,” she said.