U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, who was killed in the Arizona shooting Saturday, was a bystander in the attack aimed at Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, according to news reports. It was not a coincidence, however, that he had come to the grocery store where Giffords was holding a meet-and-greet that morning; he came to talk with Giffords about greater resources for his court, The National Law Journal reports.
“Such a discussion would have been typical for Roll,” The NLJ explains. “He had long been agitating for greater resources amid a flood immigration and drug cases.”
On Dec. 21, Roll, the chief district judge in Arizona, sent an email to U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski urging the court to declare a judicial emergency. The email attached letters from Giffords and another Arizona member of Congress, Rep. Ed Pastor, The New York Times reports.
According to the complaint against the suspected gunman, Roll thanked a Giffords staffer Saturday for the “help and support” Giffords had given the federal judiciary, The NLJ reports.
Roll, who was described by Chief Justice John G. Roberts as “a wise juristwho selflessly served Arizona and the nation with great distinction,” had received several death threats and angry calls as a result of controversial decisions over the past several years, including one in which he allowed a $32 million civil rights suit filed by Mexican nationals to go forward against a rancher, The Times reports in a separate article. And reports over the past year have indicated that threats against judges are on the rise,Time reports.
“For a moment, U.S. District Judge John M. Roll seemed as likely the main target of the Tucson massacre as Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords,”Time reports. It later became clear that Roll was not the target of the shooting, but that has not stopped many members of the judiciary from recognizing their own vulnerability.
“If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us,” Kozinski told The New York Times.