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Our History: Featured Alumni/ae: Roll, John M., LL.M. 1990

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, members of Congress, ambassadors, educators, business people, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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John McCarthy Roll

Justice, U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona

John McCarthy Roll was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1947 and moved to Arizona as a child. He attended Salpointe Catholic High School. He received his B.A. from the University of Arizona in 1969, a J.D. from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1972, and an LL.M. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1990. Roll was a bailiff for the Pima County Superior Court from 1972 to 1973. He was an assistant city attorney of Tucson, Arizona, in 1973, and was then a deputy county attorney of Pima County's Criminal Division from 1973 to 1980. He was a clinical instructor at the University of Arizona College of Law from 1978 to 1979, after which he served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona from 1980 to 1987. During that time, he was attached to an organized crime task force (1982 to 1986) and the Civil Division (1986 to 1987). After his years as a U.S. attorney, he became a state judge and served on the Court of Appeals, Division Two, for the State of Arizona from 1987 to 1991, and eventually became its vice-chief judge in 1991. He also served as a judge on the Pima County Superior Court, Criminal Bench, in that year.

Roll was nominated by President George H. W. Bush on September 23, 1991, to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on November 22, 1991. He was elevated to chief judge on May 1, 2006, a position he held until his death. Roll died on January 8, 2011, after being shot along with 18 others while attending a constituent outreach event held near Tucson, Arizona by U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. Roll had decided to attend the event only about an hour before the shooting. Surveillance video revealed that Roll was shot in the back after pushing down and shielding Ron Barber, a staffer for Giffords who had just been shot and who survived.  Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts noted after the shooting, “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… 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.”

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