John Roll

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John Roll
Chief Judge John Roll.jpg
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona
In office
May 1, 2006 – January 8, 2011
Preceded byStephen M. McNamee
Succeeded byRoslyn O. Silver
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona
In office
November 25, 1991 – January 8, 2011
Appointed byGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byAlfredo Chavez Marquez
Succeeded byJennifer Zipps
Personal details
BornJohn McCarthy Roll
(1947-02-08)February 8, 1947
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DiedJanuary 8, 2011(2011-01-08) (aged 63)
Tucson, Arizona
Cause of deathAssassination
EducationUniversity of Arizona (B.A.)
University of Arizona College of Law (J.D.)
University of Virginia School of Law (LL.M.)

John McCarthy Roll (February 8, 1947 – January 8, 2011) was a United States District Judge who served on the United States District Court for the District of Arizona from 1991 until his death in 2011, and as chief judge of that court from 2006 to 2011. With degrees from the University of Arizona College of Law and University of Virginia School of Law, Roll began his career as a court bailiff in Arizona and became an assistant city attorney of Tucson, Arizona in 1973. Later that year, Roll became a deputy county attorney for Pima County, Arizona until 1980, when he began serving as an Assistant United States Attorney for seven years. President George H. W. Bush appointed Roll to a federal judge seat in Arizona after Roll served four years as a state judge.

Roll was killed in the 2011 Tucson shooting while attending a constituent outreach event held by United States Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Casas Adobes, near Tucson, Arizona.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania into a Roman Catholic family, Roll moved to Arizona as a child. He attended Salpointe Catholic High School.[3] He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Arizona in 1969, a Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1972, and a Master of Laws from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1990.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Roll is survived by his wife of 41 years Maureen and their three sons Robert, Patrick and Christopher.[5] He was described as "deeply conservative", politically.[6]

Roll was a Roman Catholic who attended Mass daily. He served as a lector in the sacred liturgy. He was an active member of the St. Thomas More Society and a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus.[7][8]

Legal career[edit]

Roll was a bailiff for the Pima County Superior Court from 1972 to 1973. He was an assistant city attorney of Tucson in 1973, and was then a deputy county attorney of Pima County's Criminal Division from 1973 to 1980. He was a clinical instructor at the University of Arizona College of Law from 1978 to 1979, after which he served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1980 to 1987. During that time, he was attached to an organized crime task force (1982-1986) and the Civil Division (1986-1987). After his years as an Assistant United States Attorney, he became a state judge and served on the Court of Appeals, Division Two, for the State of Arizona from 1987 to 1991, and eventually became its vice-chief judge in 1991. He also served as a judge on the Pima County Superior Court, Criminal Bench, in that year.[4]

Federal judge[edit]

Roll was nominated by President George H. W. Bush on September 23, 1991, to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Arizona that had been vacated by Alfredo Chavez Marquez. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on November 22, 1991, and received his commission on November 25. Roll was elevated to Chief Judge on May 1, 2006, succeeding Stephen M. McNamee, and served until his death in January 2011.[4][9] Roll was succeeded as chief judge by Roslyn O. Silver.[10]

In 1994, Roll was one of several district court judges who held that provisions of the Brady Law violated the Tenth Amendment,[11] a holding upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the related case of Printz v. United States.

In 2009, Roll ruled that the case Vicente v. Barnett could go forward. The $32 million lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) against Arizona rancher Roger Barnett on behalf of 16 Mexican plaintiffs charged that the plaintiffs were assaulted, threatened, and held at gunpoint by Barnett and members of his family. After Roll's ruling and prompted by several talk-radio programs, he was the subject of hundreds of complaining phone calls and death threats and he and his family were under the protection of the U.S. Marshals Service for a month.[12][13][14] Roll declined to press charges when some of those who made threats were identified.[15]


Roadside sign at the scene of the shooting.

Roll was shot on January 8, 2011, outside a Safeway supermarket in Casas Adobes, Arizona,[16] when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a "Congress on Your Corner" event held by Democratic U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Roll had attended Mass earlier that morning and decided to attend the event about an hour before the shooting.[17] Surveillance video revealed that Roll was shot in the back after pushing down and shielding Ron Barber, a staffer for Giffords who had just been shot.[18][19][20][21] Roll later died of his injuries, as did five other people.[17] Thirteen others were injured by gunfire, but survived, including Giffords and Barber; Barber would go on to replace Giffords when she resigned from Congress to recuperate from the injuries sustained in the shooting.[2]

Chief Justice John Roberts issued a statement in response to the event (before the death of Christina-Taylor Green, the sixth person to die in the shooting):

The violence in Arizona today has senselessly taken five lives and inflicted tragic loss on dedicated public servants and their families. We in the judiciary have suffered the terrible loss of one of our own. Chief 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. I express my deepest condolences to his wife Maureen and his children, as well as the other victims and their families. 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.[22]

President Barack Obama visits a recovering Ron Barber, whom Roll had reportedly shielded during the shooting.[20]

Other plaudits came from Senator John McCain, who had recommended Roll for appointment to the federal bench; from Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik; and from Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson, who noted that Roll was an active parishioner who "lived his faith".[23]

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Arizona, stated that "Judge Roll was a widely respected jurist, a strong and able leader of his court, and a kind, courteous and sincere gentleman".[23] President Barack Obama commented on Roll's death in his statement issued after the shooting, noting that Roll "served America's legal system for almost 40 years".[24]

Jared Lee Loughner was charged by federal prosecutors with Roll's murder. Evidence gathered by federal investigators indicates that Giffords was Loughner's main target. Roll was apparently not specifically targeted – Loughner might not have even known who he was. Roll lived in the area, and had attended the event to continue a prior conversation with Giffords about the volume of cases in Arizona Federal courts.[25]

Roll was the first federal judge murdered in office since Robert Smith Vance in 1989.[15] Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals selected Larry Alan Burns, a judge of the Southern District Court of California, to be the presiding judge over Loughner's trial,[26][27] after all federal judges in Arizona recused themselves because of their ties to Roll.[28][29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Congresswoman's responses after Arizona shooting called encouraging". CNN. January 9, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Bell, Melissa; Buck, James (January 14, 2011). "Updated: List of injured victims in Arizona shooting released by Pima County sheriff". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  3. ^ Gassen, Sarah Garrecht (January 9, 2011). "A man of faith and devoted to rule of law". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c "Roll, John McCarthy - Federal Judicial Center".
  5. ^ Swaine, Jon. "Arizona shooting dead: Judge John Roll". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  6. ^ Judge John Roll In Peers' Thoughts At Superior Court Investiture,; accessed May 3, 2017.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Judicial Milestones". Administrative Office of the United States Courts. May 2006. Archived from the original on December 7, 2010. Retrieved January 18, 2001.
  10. ^ Markon, Jerry (January 17, 2011). "Federal court authorities plan to move trial of Tucson shooting suspect". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 18, 2011.
  11. ^ Schneider, Jim (October 1, 1994). "Judge rules against background checks". Gale. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
  12. ^ Vicente v. Barnett, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
  13. ^ Seper, Jerry (February 9, 2009). "16 illegals sue Arizona rancher". The Washington Times. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  14. ^ Anglen, Robert (July 9, 2009). "U.S. judiciary facing rise in death threats". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  15. ^ a b Schwartz, John (January 9, 2011). "Amid Shock, Recalling Judge's Life of Service". The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  16. ^ Kiefer, Michael; Bland, Karina (January 9, 2011). "Judge John Roll respected among peers". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  17. ^ a b "Reports: Judge Roll Received Death Threats Federal Judge Killed in Ariz. Was Target 2 Years Ago After Controversial Ruling". CBS News. January 8, 2011. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
  18. ^ Roth, Zachary (January 19, 2010). "Police: Slain judge 'was thinking of his fellow human more than himself'". Blog: The Lookout. Yahoo! Inc. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  19. ^ Cohen, Andrew (January 18, 2011). "Slain Judge John Roll Tried to Shield Other Tucson Victim, Video Indicates". Politics Daily. AOL Inc. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  20. ^ a b "Security Video Reveals Tucson Shooting Horror". CBS News. January 19, 2011. p. 2. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  21. ^ Thomas, Pierre (January 19, 2011). "Security Video Reveals Tucson Shooting Horror". ABC News. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  22. ^ "Statement from Chief Justice Roberts on Death of Judge Roll". FOX Insider. Fox News Channel. January 8, 2011. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
  23. ^ a b "Judge slain in Ariz. shooting wins wide acclaim". MSNBC. Associated Press. Retrieved January 9, 2011.
  24. ^ The President Speaks on the Shootings in Tucson: "We Are Going to Get to the Bottom of This, and We're Going to Get Through This",, January 8, 2009.
  25. ^ "CRIMINAL COMPLAINT: United States of America v. JARED LEE LOUGHNER" (PDF). U.S. District Court of Arizona. January 9, 2011. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  26. ^ LaRoe, Ginny (January 12, 2011). "San Diego Federal Judge Tapped for Loughner Case". The Recorder. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  27. ^ Reilly, Ryan J. "Due To Arizona Conflicts, California Judge Takes Over Loughner Case". Talking Points Memo. Retrieved January 13, 2011.
  28. ^ Johnson, Kevin (January 11, 2011). "In Loughner case, Ariz. federal judiciary considers recusal". USA Today. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  29. ^ O'Neill, Ann. "Lawyer keeps even the most loathed criminals off death row". CNN. Retrieved January 12, 2011.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Alfredo Chavez Marquez
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona
Succeeded by
Jennifer Zipps
Preceded by
Stephen M. McNamee
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona
Succeeded by
Roslyn O. Silver