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.”

How to Handle 'Alarming' Safety Risks for Judges?

Rep. Peter King of New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Tuesday he plans to introduce a bill that would make it a crime for people to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a federal judge or member of Congress.

“In the United States, it is illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. Passing a similar law for government officials would give federal, state, and local law enforcement a better chance to intercept would-be shooters before they pull the trigger,” asserted the Republican in a statement reported by MSNBC.

King (photo at right) announced his planned legislation at a news conference with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as they responded to the shooting rampage in Arizona that gravely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed federal Judge John M. Roll (photo, above left) and five others.

Three days after the Tucson bloodshed, the murder of Judge Roll — who apparently was not the target of the shooting suspect, Jared Loughner — continued to rivet attention on safety risks facing judges, whether in their courtrooms or unprotected in public.

Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the District Court for the District of Columbia labeled the Tucson shooting “alarming,” according to a Blog of Legal Times post. It raises questions whether federal judges and elected officials ought to make public appearances without security, he said.

Judges around the country continued to wrestle with the implications of Judge Roll’s shooting. According to a separate MSNBC article, it “underscored  the safety risks members of the judiciary branch at all levels have faced for decades.” In recent times, threats upon federal judges and prosecutors have soared (see Gavel Grab). The MSNBC article was entitled “Judges no strangers to balancing security.”

Judge Dana Leigh Marks, head of the National Association of Immigration Judges, put it this way:

“In this time when people are angry at public servants and are facing tough economic times, judges become a visible symbol for their anger.

“It’s a little bit frightening, especially to our families, who are wondering if we’re risking our lives just to go to work.” (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

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.”

Terror at Court in China

In central China, a gunman shot three judges to death and wounded three other people before taking his own life.

An Associated Press article said the 46-year-old gunman was described by the official Xinhua News Agency as bearing a grudge against the court over a ruling in a marital property division dispute three years ago. He and his wife were getting a divorce then.

The judges who were killed had not been involved in the attacker’s case. Xinhua identified the attacker as Zhu Jun, a head of security at the Lingling district post office in Yongzhou in Hunan province. A small automatic handgun was used in the attacks.

Assassinated Italian Jurist is Honored

Renowned Mafia fighter Giovanni Falcone, a judge who was assassinated in 1992, was honored at the Supreme Court in an event that drew several U.S. justices and senior administration officials.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. remarked that Falcone had “died in a very real struggle to protect the innocent and stop violence,” according to a post about the event in The Blog of Legal Times. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. mourned the international community’s loss of “a very great man” and went on to assail the media, saying it uses the Mafia to “slander Italian-Americans.”  Also participating was Justice Antonin Scalia, who met Falcone in 1986. “He was obviously a marked man, and he knew it,” Scalia recounted.