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Judge John Roll Remembered

GUY RAZ, host:

Another victim of the attack was a federal judge, John Roll. He was killed just as he was coming to greet Congresswoman Giffords.

Judge Roll was a widely respected jurist in Arizona. His friend and colleague, John Pelander, a justice on Arizona's Supreme Court, joins me now from Tucson.

And, Justice Pelander, thank you for being with us at such a difficult time.

Mr. JOHN PELANDER (Chief Judge, Arizona Supreme Court): You're welcome.

RAZ: I know Judge Roll was a friend of yours. Can you tell me what he was like, not the professional John Roll, but the person?

Mr. PELANDER: He was extremely kind, compassionate. He cared about other people beyond the law. He obviously was a great judge and a, you know, a great legal mind and so forth. But he did not have any aloofness to him at all. He did not have what some judges might call black robitis, that they feel that they have an elevated status. He was just very, very personable and friendly to everyone and truly cared about other people.

RAZ: I understand that he was stopping by yesterday to thank Gabby Giffords for some help that she gave him. What do you know about that?

Mr. PELANDER: I really don't. That's - all I know about that is what I've heard on the reports. I had heard that he had gone to mass on Saturday morning, which apparently was his custom, and he was on his way home and stopped by the grocery store, apparently picked up a few items.

I don't know if he already knew that Gabby would be there. Apparently, he might have known that. I do know that Gabby had helped in obtaining some funding for a federal court facility in Yuma, Arizona. And perhaps - this is speculation, but perhaps John had - was just simply going to stop by and say hi and thanks to her.

RAZ: Justice Pelander, when was the last time you saw him?

Mr. PELANDER: Boy, it's probably been several weeks. I saw him, believe it or not, fairly frequently at the YMCA in Tucson. He would come in in the mornings to swim. And when I'm in Tucson, I try to get there in the mornings. We would run into each other in the locker room. So that was our most frequent meeting in the last few months. And it's probably been several weeks since I last saw him.

RAZ: Judge Roll is someone who was threatened in the past for some of his rulings. Can you describe the type of jurist he was?

Mr. PELANDER: He had a very sharp mind, great intellect and great legal ability. His demeanor on the bench was excellent, which fit right in with his general personality.

I would describe him as a judge's judge. He was very well-respected not only by his colleagues on the federal bench but also by the entire Arizona state judiciary, and he was very much respected by the bar, just a tremendous asset to the community. It's a great loss to not only the legal community and the bench but also the entire state.

RAZ: That's Justice John Pelander. He's a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court and a friend of Judge John Roll, who was killed in that attack in Tucson yesterday.

Justice Pelander, thank you.

Mr. PELANDER: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.