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Judge Killed In Arizona Shooting Tackled Tough Issues

By Minara El-Rahman on January 12, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

U.S. District Court Judge John Roll, who was killed in the attack against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, tackled tough legal issues from the bench. The chief federal judge of the District of Arizona even received death threats.

Judge John Roll received death threats after he ruled to allow a civil rights lawsuit worth $32 million to proceed against a rancher who corralled Mexican nationals trying to cross his property, the New York Times reports. He also ruled to strike down a federal requisite for mandatory background checks on handgun purchases.

He worked tirelessly for his judiciary. In fact, Judge John Roll was dropping by Gabrielle Giffords' political event at Safeway that fateful Saturday morning in order to thank her for her help and support to the federal judiciary, according to the Blog of Legal Times. He sent a letter to Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit requesting that they declare a judicial emergency for the state of Arizona. This is because of a large influx of federal cases revolving around Arizona's immigration and drug laws. Judge John Roll wanted more resources for his judiciary.

In fact, his death comes at a time when resources in his district are stretched thin. There were already two vacancies that needed to be filled prior to his death. Now that Judge Roll has passed away, his district will need help. "[W]e're going to need help from other districts, either inside the Ninth Circuit or outside," Judge Frederick Martone is quoted by the ABA Journal as saying.

The sad irony is that his life was cut short by alleged shooter Jared Loughner not because of his stance on legal issues, but simply because he was an unlucky bystander. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik of Pima County, said.

While he may have been a victim of coincidence, he will be missed and respected by many.

Judge Roll was called a "widely respected jurist, a strong and able leader of his court, and a kind, courteous and sincere gentleman," in a statement released by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit.

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