In a bittersweet moment for Arizona, President Barack Obama signed into law on Thursday a bill that named a new federal courthouse in the state after slain federal Judge John M. Roll.
Roll was killed on Jan. 8 when he stopped to visit Rep. Gabrielle Giffords at a Tucson shopping center after the devout Roman Catholic attended Mass. Five other people were killed. Thirteen people were wounded, including the congresswoman.
During the ceremony, Obama told Republican Sen. John McCain “good pick” in reference to McCain’s nomination of Roll to serve as a federal judge during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.
Giffords’ chief of staff, Pia Carusone, also attended the signing ceremony. Though Giffords and Roll came from different ends of the political spectrum, she said the two frequently spoke about the growing caseload in Arizona’s federal courts as a result of human and drug smuggling along the state’s border with Mexico.
“We worked really closely with him,” Carusone said. “There are few people who I know where we had carte blanche authority from her to do everything possible to help. Judge Roll was one of them.
“He was such a diligent, smart man who was at the epicenter of the judicial problems created by the border crisis.”
Carusone said the congresswoman was not aware of the signing ceremony or Roll’s death as she recovers from her brain injury at a hospital in Houston.
Construction of the courthouse in Yuma is scheduled to begin in July and be completed by 2013. Roll was a strong advocate for the facility and had approved the design for the building shortly before his death.
Roll is not the only victim of the tragedy to have a location named in his honor. Nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green will have a baseball field named after her where she played second base for her Little League team. The family of the girl, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001, is expected to throw out the first pitch when the season begins this spring.