by Jim Nintzel
The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously voted to name the new federal courthouse in Yuma after John Roll, the federal judge who was slain in last month's shooting rampage. A press release from Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords' office:
The U.S. House of Representatives, with strong support from U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ office, unanimously passed bipartisan legislation today naming the new federal courthouse in Yuma in honor of Judge John Roll, who was slain last month.
“I very much appreciate today’s vote to name the new federal courthouse in Yuma after my husband, John,” said Maureen Roll, widow of the judge. “I thank Congresswoman Giffords’ office for having this legislation brought up so quickly in the House and Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl for introducing it in the Senate.
“My husband worked very hard to secure funding for this badly needed facility,” Maureen Roll added. “He was proud to serve his country on the federal bench and he would be honored to have his name on this courthouse.”
Pia Carusone, chief of staff for Giffords, said, “This vote was very important to our office because the congresswoman and Judge Roll worked so closely together on a number of issues. I congratulate Congress for moving quickly on this legislation.”
House Speaker John Boehner also praised passage of the bill and the role of Giffords’ office.
“Today’s passage of S. 188 is a fitting tribute to Judge John Roll’s decades of distinguished service to the federal judiciary and the people of Arizona,” said Boehner. “Representative Giffords must be very proud of all that her colleagues in the House and members of her congressional staff did to extend this well deserved honor to her close friend, the late Judge Roll.”
The House passed the bill 429-to-0 today. It now goes to the president for his signature.
U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader said, “Today, the House approved a bill to name a federal courthouse after U.S. District Judge John Roll who died a hero during the horrific shooting in Tucson, Arizona last month. Judge Roll honorably served the people of Arizona and this bill, once signed by the President, will dedicate a federal courthouse in his home state in remembrance of his life and commitment to justice.
“We thank Rep. Gabby Gifford’s office for its hard work on this bipartisan legislation and wish her a continued strong recovery,” Cantor added.
Construction on the John M. Roll United States Courthouse is scheduled to begin in July and be completed by 2013. Roll was a strong advocate for the new courthouse and recently approved the design for the building at 98 W. First St. in Yuma.
Roll, the chief federal judge for Arizona, was shot and killed Jan. 8 when a gunman opened fire at Giffords’ “Congress on Your Corner” event at a shopping center on Tucson’s Northwest Side. Five other people, including an aide to Giffords, also were killed. Thirteen people, including the congresswoman, were wounded.
Giffords and Roll worked closely together to secure $28 million in federal stimulus funding for the new courthouse. A photo of them, taken last year, is attached. It shows Roll holding a picture of crowded conditions at the existing Yuma courthouse.
In a letter last week to House leaders, Carusone urged that the legislation naming the building after Roll be brought to a vote in the House “at the soonest possible date.”
Roll graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1972 and spent the next 40 years of his life dedicated to public service. He first served as a bailiff in Pima County Superior Court and then became a deputy county attorney for Pima County, prosecuting criminal cases until 1980.
Roll then moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona where he served as both a civil attorney and criminal attorney until 1987. Roll then served as a Pima County Superior Court judge until he was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991.
The current Yuma courthouse was built in 1992 when only 826 cases were heard there. That number has since grown to more than 4,000 cases annually. Cases that were unable to be heard in Yuma have been moved to Tucson, causing escalating overload problems.
Giffords and Roll worked together on other issues. In December, Giffords sent a letter to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which oversees Arizona’s federal courts, in support of Roll’s effort to obtain a judicial emergency declaration in Arizona.
That emergency was granted on Jan. 21, allowing overcrowded federal courts in the state additional time to prosecute the growing number of felony cases associated with human and drug smuggling across the international border.
“Judge Roll worked closely with Congresswoman Giffords to justify to federal officials the need for construction of the Yuma, Arizona, U.S. courthouse to adjudicate the growing backlog of these cases,” U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland said today in remarks on the floor of the House.
“Judge Roll was respected by his colleagues and the attorneys that appeared before him as someone that was devoted to the rule of law and afforded all that appeared before him a fair opportunity to present their case,” Edwards added.
Roll was killed when he stopped by Giffords’ congressional event to thank her for her continued attention to federal court issues in Arizona.