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Federal judge mourned as fair jurist, family man
Question of the Day
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The federal judge killed in the Arizona shooting rampage was remembered Friday not just for his work from the bench, but for who he was in private: A man devoted to family, faith and fairness.
U.S. District Judge John Roll had stopped by a supermarket meet-and-greet for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday when he was killed, along with five others. Mrs. Giffords, recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, was still in critical condition.
Authorities say the shooter, 22-year-old Jared Loughner, was targeting the lawmaker, who was wounded along with 12 others.
Judge Roll's funeral Friday came a day after the youngest victim, Christina Taylor Green, was laid to rest and amid tight security. Four big coach buses brought dozens of judges who knew Roll over the years.
During the funeral, Judge Roll's older brother, Ed, recalled how the family had moved to Arizona from Pittsburgh because their mother was in poor health. She eventually died when Mr. Roll was 15, said Carol Bahill, 61, who attended the ceremony.
Ed Roll told mourners Judge Roll changed his middle name from Paul to his Irish mother's maiden name, McCarthy, "to keep that part of the family alive," Ms. Bahill recalled.
"It made it very personal," she said. "You do feel like you knew something about him personally."
Judge Roll's three sons were among the pallbearers, and family members and two federal judges gave readings, according to a program for the funeral. Dignitaries including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer as well as Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl attended.
Former Vice President Dan Quayle was to bring a handwritten message from former President George H.W. Bush, who appointed Roll to the bench in 1991, said Adam Goldberg, a spokesman for the fire department and the event.
Most of the nation had never heard of Christina Green before the tragedy Saturday, but Judge Roll, 63, had attracted death threats and became a lightning rod in the state's immigration debate after his ruling in a controversial border-crossing case two years ago.
Judge Roll's death leaves a huge hole in the federal judiciary in Arizona, not only because of the workload but because he had a reputation as a fair-minded and hardworking jurist, said Paul Carter, an assistant state attorney general.
"Although I really knew him as a judge, what came through here today and what I hoped would be my legacy as well, is that he was a good father, a good family man, and just a fair guy," Mr. Carter said.
Judge Roll, 63, who had attended daily Mass, was just coming from a service when he stopped by the local Safeway to see Giffords, by some accounts to thank her for her support in addressing the issue of a federal judge and court shortage in Arizona.
Judge Roll's Saturday was full of mundane errands, but he was no stranger to death threats and controversy.
Two years ago, Judge Roll presided over the case of 16 illegal immigrants who had sued border rancher Roger Barnett, saying he threatened them at gunpoint, kicked them and harassed them with dogs. Mr. Barnett argued that the plaintiffs couldn't sue him because they were in the U.S. illegally, but Roll upheld the civil rights claim and allowed a jury to hear the case.
The panel eventually awarded the illegal immigrants just $73,000 — much less than the millions sought — but the case was a flash point in a state that struggles to curb crossings at its border.
Judge Roll received death threats and was under around-the-clock protection while hearing the case.
"It was unnerving and invasive ... by its nature it has to be," Judge Roll told the Arizona Republic in a mid-2009 interview. He said he followed the advice of the Marshals Service to not press charges against four men identified as threatening him.
Judge Roll also had taken a leading position in pressing for more courts and judges to deal with the dramatic increase in federal cases caused by illegal immigration.
A week before his death, he declared a judicial emergency in southern Arizona as the number of federal felony cases more than doubled, from 1,564 to 3,289, the Los Angeles Times reported. He asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency declaration extending the time to bring felony defendants into court from 70 days to 180 days, the paper reported.
Judge Roll was an Arizona Court of Appeals and state trial court judge from 1987 to 1991. He worked as a city, county and federal prosecutor from 1973 until his appointment to the bench. He also worked for two years as a bailiff in the Pima County courts in the early 1970s.
A Pennsylvania native, he earned undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Arizona and an advanced law degree from the University of Virginia. He was an avid golfer and was heavily involved in his church, St. Thomas the Apostle.
Judge Roll is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons, and five grandchildren.
Judge Roll walked his two basset hounds around the neighborhood every morning, and seemed inseparable from his wife, said George Kriss, 70, who came to the service Friday but didn't get in.
"They were always together, walking the dogs, when the grandkids were with them," Mr. Kriss said.
Associated Press writer Bob Christie in Phoenix and Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Fla. contributed to this report.
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