Media Room

Judge John Roll


Judiciary Mourns Death of Chief District Judge John M. Roll of Arizona


The federal and state judiciary are in mourning after learning of the death of Chief District Judge John M. Roll of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.

Judge Roll was among six people killed at a political event in Tucson. He was 63.

Flags will be lowered to half mast at courthouses in memory of Judge Roll, who had his chambers in Tucson. He had been attending an event organized by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Tucson, who also was shot and critically wounded. As many as 16 more people were injured in the shooting.

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Rebecca White Berch said, "Saturday was a sad and tragic day for the judiciary, our state, and our country. The shocking events that took place deeply grieve those of us in the Arizona Judiciary. Chief Judge John M. Roll of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona was a victim of this tragedy and we are deeply saddened that a member of our sister judicial system, a kind man, a wise and fair jurist, and a friend to many within the legal community, has been taken from us by this senseless act of violence. Our thoughts and prayers go to all of those affected by the shooting."

Chief Justice Berch went on to note, "There is no higher calling than public service and the work the Judiciary does is critical to our system of freedom. Our justice system rests on a strong foundation built on the work of many. It will not be destroyed by one."

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., issued the following statement regarding the January 8, 2011, death of Chief Judge John Roll.

“The violence in Arizona 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.”

Ninth Circuit Judge Mary M. Schroeder of Phoenix, a former chief judge of the circuit, said "Judge Roll was respected and loved in both his professional and personal life."

“He was famous for being able to say so many genuinely nice things about people without having to consult notes, for he so genuinely loved people and had such a remarkable mind,” Judge Schroeder said. “Judge Roll will be greatly missed and will continue to provide inspiration for the generations of lawyers and judges who were fortunate enough to know him.”

Nominated by President George H.W. Bush, Judge Roll came onto the federal bench in 1991.

He was elevated to chief judge in 2006. Under his leadership, the Arizona court has sought additional judges and other resources to better manage a growing caseload. One of two border courts in the Ninth Circuit, drug smuggling and illegal immigration predominate its criminal caseload.

Born in Pittsburgh, Penn., Judge Roll received his B.A. in 1969 from the University of Arizona and J.D. in 1972 from the UA College of Law. He also received a LL.M. in 1990 from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Prior to coming onto the federal bench, he had served as a judge of the Pima County Superior Court 1988 to 1991, and on the Arizona Court of Appeals, 1986 to 1987. He also had served as an assistant  U.S. attorney for Arizona, 1980 to 1987, and as a deputy county attorney for Pima County, 1978 to 1979.

Judge Roll is survived by his wife, Maureen, three sons and five grandchildren.