Crime, Federal Judges, Guns / Firearms, Politics, UVA Law, Violence

Federal Judge John Roll Among Victims in Arizona Congresswoman Shooting

Judge John Roll

We’re not going to weigh in on all the rampant speculation about what gave rise to the shooting today in Arizona involving Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona). But we did want to inform you that news outlets are now reporting that federal judge John Roll was one of the victims in the shooting in Tucson.

UPDATE: President Obama is also confirming that Chief Judge John M. Roll (D. Ariz.) was fatally shot in Tucson. Here’s a statement from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:

“I am deeply saddened by reports that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Chief Judge John Roll and others were attacked this afternoon in Tucson, Arizona. There is no place in our society or discourse for such senseless and unconscionable acts of violence. Gabby is a steadfast representative for southern Arizona and both she and John are dedicated public servants.

“The Department of Homeland Security has offered all possible assistance to the FBI and the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, who are leading the investigation. My thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her family and staff, and all those who were injured in this difficult time.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Some more details on Judge Roll, plus several UPDATES, after the jump…

Roll was appointed to the federal bench by George H.W. Bush in 1991, and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He had served as Chief Judge of the District of Arizona since 2006. He was a graduate of the University of Arizona, class of 1969, and the University of Arizona College of Law, class of 1972. He also earned an LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1990.

I want to be very clear that I think it is way, WAY too early to start speculating on why some man opened fired on a crowd of people, seriously injuring a congresswoman and killing a federal judge and a little girl, among others. However, it appears that Judge Roll did receive death threats in 2009 after he certified a case brought by illegal immigrants.

Here’s a July 2009 report from the Arizona Republic:

In February, when U.S. District Judge John Roll presided over a $32 million civil-rights lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher, the Marshals Service was anticipating the fallout.

When Roll ruled the case could go forward, [U.S. Marshal David Gonzales] said talk-radio shows cranked up the controversy and spurred audiences into making threats.

In one afternoon, Roll logged more than 200 phone calls. Callers threatened the judge and his family. They posted personal information about Roll online.

“They said, ‘We should kill him. He should be dead,’ ” Gonzales said.

Roll, who is the chief federal judge in Arizona, said both he and his wife were given a protection detail for about a month.

Obviously, the authorities are not now in a position to tell us if these shootings were politically motivated, or if any specific person was the target of these attacks.

UPDATE: Television news reporters are saying that Congresswoman Giffords read a part of the Constitution during the little stunt put on by some House members earlier this week. Her section? “…or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

UPDATE: Given the limitations on political activity by judges, it shouldn’t surprise any lawyers that Judge Roll was not “participating” in the Gabrielle Giffords supermarket meet-and-greet where the shooting took place. Instead, television reports say that Judge Roll happened to live a couple of blocks away from the supermarket. He decided to drop by to say hello to the Congresswoman.

UPDATE: For what it’s worth, in 1994 Judge Roll ruled that background checks for handguns under the Brady Law were unconstitutional:

In Arizona, U.S. District Court Judge John Roll has become the third federal judge to agree that part of the Brady Law violates the Tenth Amendment. He is the first to say that part of the Brady Law also violates the Fifth Amendment.

Judge Roll’s opinion does not knock out the waiting period for handgun purchases, but it does strike at the very concept of the federal government requiring local law enforcement officers to conduct background checks…

Government attorneys also argued that the sheriff did not have standing because while he may be a state official, he is not the state.

But Judge Roll did not accept that argument, ruling, “The court finds the standing and jurisdiction argument presented by the United States to fall on all fronts. It is irrefutable that the Act specifically imposes certain duties on a particular category of individuals — the CLEOs.

Roll’s ruling in that case was later reversed.

UPDATE (9:45 PM): A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service told TPM that the Marshals are taking “appropriate actions to ensure the security of the federal judiciary.”

UPDATE (9:55 PM): According to the New York Times, Representative Giffords is in very critical condition. A 22-year-old suspect in the shooting, identified by law enforcement as Jared Lee Loughner, has been taken into custody; a second suspect is being sought.

UPDATE (10:47 PM): More about Rep. Giffords and Judge Roll, from the NYT:

Ms. Giffords, who represents Arizona’s Eighth District in the southeastern corner of the state, has been an outspoken critic of Arizona’s tough immigration law, which is focused on identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants, and she had come under criticism for her vote in favor of the Democrats’ health care law.

Law enforcement officials said she had received threats over the years. Judge Roll had been involved in immigration cases and had previously received death threats.

U.S. judiciary facing rise in death threats [Arizona Republic]
Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition after Tucson shooting; eight others injured [Washington Post]
Federal Judge John Roll Killed in Attack that Targeted Congresswoman [ABA Journal]
Marshals: We’re Taking ‘Appropriate Actions’ Following Murder Of Federal Judge John Roll [TPM Muckraker]
2nd Suspect Sought in Arizona Shooting [New York Times]

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