Solemn Funeral for Federal Judge in Tucson

A hearse carrying the remains of U.S. District Judge John Roll arrives at the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church before his funeral on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz. One day after mourning a bubbly 9-year-old slain during the attempted assassination of a congresswoman, residents and fellow jurists gathered Friday at the same Tucson church to remember the federal judge. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) AP

Last Updated 4:15 p.m. ET

TUCSON - Mourners gathered Friday to remember a federal judge who was among six people killed when a gunman shot a U.S. congresswoman and others in the crowd at her community event.

U.S. District Judge John Roll was remembered not just for his work from the bench, but for who he was in private: A man devoted to family, faith and fairness.

Roll, who served nearly 40 years, had stopped by the event after attending Mass to say hello to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The Democratic congresswoman was among the 13 wounded. Giffords condition is reportedly improving every day.

Colleagues and dignitaries packed Roll's funeral. Four big coach buses brought dozens of judges who knew Roll over the years, and many who came did not get in.

During the funeral, Roll's older brother, Ed, recalled how the family had moved to Arizona from Pittsburgh because their mother was in poor health. She eventually died when Roll was 15, said Carol Bahill, 61, who attended the ceremony.

Ed Roll told mourners Roll changed his middle name from Paul to his Irish mother's maiden name, McCarthy, "to keep that part of the family alive," Bahill recalled.

Roll's three sons were among the pallbearers, and family members and three federal judges gave readings, according to a program for the funeral. The service was to end with the song "When Irish Eyes are Smiling."

"He was just a tremendous person, everyone respected him," said Michael Massee, 48, who served as a law clerk for Roll in U.S. District Court in Tucson from 1994 to 1996. "In his previous career, he had been a prosecutor mostly, but even the defense attorneys I knew respected him and had no fear of appearing before him because you knew, like an umpire, he would call the strikes and balls fairly."

Dignitaries including Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Sens. John McCain and Jon Kyl, and former Vice President Dan Quayle were supposed to attended, said Adam Goldberg, a spokesman for the fire department and the event. Quayle allegedly brought a handwritten message from former President George H.W. Bush, who appointed Roll to the bench in 1991.

U.S. marshals and local law officers were at the church three hours before the service began. Vehicles entering the main parking lot had to pass through a checkpoint, where marshals talked to all occupants.

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Across the street from the church, graffiti on a retaining wall reads "Stop the Hate."

A huge sign draped over a house reads "Your community is standing with you." Next door, an American flag hangs on a garage door.

Roll, 63, has often been heralded as a stern but fair-minded judge on the bench, and as a fun, family-loving man outside court.

Roll earned his law degree from the University of Arizona in 1972. he was appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1991, and has been the chief judge of the district of Arizona since 2006.

The father of three died on a Saturday full of mundane errands, but he was no stranger to death threats and controversy during his years on the federal bench.

Two years ago, Roll presided over the case of 16 illegal immigrants who had sued border rancher Roger Barnett, saying he threatened them at gunpoint, kicked them and harassed them with dogs. Barnett argued that the plaintiffs couldn't sue him because they were in the U.S. illegally, but Roll upheld the civil rights claim and allowed a jury to hear the case.

The panel eventually awarded the illegal immigrants just $73,000 - much less than the millions sought - but the case was a flash point in a state that struggles to curb crossings at its border.

Roll received death threats was under around-the-clock protection while hearing the case.

"It was unnerving and invasive ... by its nature it has to be," Roll told the Arizona Republic in a mid-2009 interview.

He said he followed the advice of the Marshals Service to not press charges against four men identified as threatening him.

Roll also had taken a leading position in pressing for more courts and judges to deal with the dramatic increase in federal cases caused by illegal immigration. A week before his death, he declared a judicial emergency in southern Arizona as the number of federal felony cases more than doubled, from 1,564 to 3,289, the Los Angeles Times reported.

He asked the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency declaration extending the time to bring felony defendants into court from 70 days to 180 days, the paper reported.

But while Roll attracted the vitriol of some, he was loved and respected by his colleagues - and by those attorneys who appeared before him, whether they prevailed or not.

"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," said 9th Circuit Judge Mary M. Schroeder of Phoenix, a former chief judge of the circuit.

"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."

Today's security stood in contrast to another funeral at the same church the day before for the youngest shooting victim, Christina Taylor Green.

On Thursday, and hundreds more - including dozens of children - lined both sides of the street outside for more than a quarter-mile to honor Green. The nine-year-old was the youngest of those killed in the incident.

Hundreds of motorcycle riders from all over stood guard. More than a dozen residents were dressed as angels and some mourners dressed in white placed candles alongside the road leading to the church.

Before her service, Christina's family and closest friends gathered under the enormous American flag recovered from Ground Zero and paused for a moment of silence, holding hands and crying.

"Her time to be born was Sept. 11, 2001," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas. "Her time to die was the tragic day, Jan. 8, 2011, just nine years old she was. But she has found her dwelling place in God's mansion. She went home."

The flag was no longer hanging over the church Friday.

On Friday, an hour before Roll's funeral was to begin, cars lined up for nearly a mile, waiting to enter church grounds, but the streets around the church were empty except for media and a strong showing of patrol cars and SWAT officers in all-green uniforms. Three big coach buses brought mourners to the church.

Tucson resident Mary Kool, 58, came to both funerals, wearing white Friday and carrying a red rose.

"I feel like it's important to support all the families and let them know Tucson cares," she said. "We are so devastated. We need to get together somehow and stop the violence."

Police have arrested 22-year-old Jared Loughner in the shootings.

Authorities haven't yet determined a motive.

Giffords has been showing since she was shot in the head Saturday, opening both eyes, moving both legs and arms and is responding to friends and family. Her doctors call it a "major milestone" in her recovery.
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