On January 8, 2011, Chief Judge John Roll of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona was among six people shot and killed in Tucson while attending a constituent gathering sponsored by Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Roll, who was appointed to the federal bench in 1991, had served as chief judge of the district since 2006. In the wake of his death, flags were lowered at federal courthouses across the county and thousands of people—many of whom had worked with him—paid tribute to Judge Roll’s life and mourned his passing. A few of the statements are included here.
The violence in Arizona today has senselessly taken six 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.
Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr.
All of us in the Ninth Circuit court family were shocked and terribly saddened to learn today of the death of Chief District Judge John M. Roll. Our hearts go out to his family and to all of the families of those killed or injured in this senseless tragedy.
Judge Roll was a widely respected jurist, a strong and able leader of his court, and a kind, courteous and sincere gentleman. He worked tirelessly to improve the delivery of justice to the people of Arizona. He was always upbeat, optimistic, enthusiastic, and positive in his outlook. He touched many lives.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski,
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
John has been my friend and colleague for over thirty years. My first memory of him is 30 years ago when I began as Assistant US Attorney preparing for the trial of one of my first cases in Tucson, Arizona. Despite his busy schedule, John went out of his way, with ultimate kindness, to assist me in the preparation. As the Chief of the District, he has always expressed the same kindness to all who needed it while exquisitely performing his judicial responsibilities. I really miss him.
Chief Judge Roslyn Silver
U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona
The Federal Judiciary and the country suffered a grievous loss in the death of Chief Judge John Roll of the District of Arizona, a tireless champion of equal justice and the rule of law. Judge Roll led one of the nation’s busiest federal trial courts with great distinction. He was a dear friend and respected colleague, and he devoted himself to improving the administration of justice. I know I speak for every member of the federal court family as I express my heartfelt sadness and extend to Judge Roll’s family our deepest sympathies.
Office of the U.S. Courts
Just being associated with John Roll made you want to be a better person. He led by example, treating everyone, regardless of their station, with genuine respect and dignity. He was warm, funny, optimistic, empathetic, passionate about what he believed, always fair and equitable. He loved his wife, his sons, his grandchildren, his mother-in-law, and his extended family without bounds. He enjoyed hearing about your family as much as he liked talking about his own. He was disciplined and worked extremely hard in a fraternity of hard workers. His unbounded energy and love for life and the law will not soon be equaled.
Richard H. (Rick) Weare
District Court Executive/Clerk
U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona
I have worked for Chief Judge Roll for 19 years, ever since he was appointed to the bench. Many people say he is the ‘hardest working judge.’ Well, I know he is! He worked very hard, but it was always for the good of the Judiciary and the District of Arizona, so all of his staff were more than willing to work by his side. We all miss him.
He couldn’t have been a nicer boss—always a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and such a gentleman—every time I went into his office for dictation or questions, he would stand up when I entered.
He was chief judge for the District of Arizona for nearly five years and took no reduction in caseload. Yet, every year he personally read 350+ law clerk applications. He always hired two term law clerks. Of course this involved training on both of our parts, but he always wanted to give as many intelligent young lawyers this opportunity as possible. Judge Roll was the best example and mentor to each of them and we all remain a close family today. Almost all of them flew from all over the United States to be present at his funeral Mass and to comfort his wife Maureen.
Judicial Assistant to Judge John Roll
Judge Roll was many things to many different people. He was a great judge, colleague, husband, father, and friend. But I’ll always remember him as a kind and patient mentor. On a daily basis he went out of his way to ask my opinion on legal issues and to include me in all facets of the judicial process. The Judge always made me feel as though I played an essential role in keeping his chambers and courtroom running. When we would discuss a case, he would, without interruption, allow me to first explain my research and thoughts before asking questions and arriving at his ultimate decision. Leading and teaching by example, Judge Roll has left an indelible mark on both my professional and personal life.
I will miss observing the respectful and patient way with which he presided over trials and interacted with attorneys and parties. I will miss the way he personally greeted each and every probation officer every morning before meeting with them to discuss the day’s sentencings. I will miss watching him show-off his visiting grandchildren to practically every department in the courthouse. I will miss the time he took to swing by my office and talk about the previous night’s Arizona Wildcats basketball game.
I have lost a friend and mentor I will never be able to replace. But we must remember everything we gained from having known this great man. I know I will never forget his compassion, patience, humor, unwavering sense of justice, and his genuine desire to put others’ needs before his own. What a truly incredible judge and American.
Michael Waits, Law Clerk to
Chief Judge John M. Roll