On January 8, 2011, Federal District Judge John Roll was gunned down by a maniacal coward lunatic. Since this unspeakable and unimaginable tragedy much has been said about who caused this tragedy or who may have prompted its occurrence. Some of this rhetoric bordered on the absurd. I would much rather talk about the good people who had their lives snuffed out before their time and to pay tribute to who they were and what they stood for. Certainly, a beautiful little nine year old angel, named Christina Green, deserves to have her life displayed as an example to others to learn from and enjoy. So, I will do that regarding a man who changed my life and helped alter American history; Judge John M. Roll. He was an honest man and a principled judge. He stood for what he believed was right despite the possible consequences. I met Judge Roll back in 1994, in fact, it was in his courtroom. He was the judge who first heard my lawsuit against the Clinton Administration. Judge Roll had the courage to take a strong stand against the very entity that controlled his salary and career. He actually had the audacity to tell Congress and President Clinton that they exceeded their authority when they made the Brady bill a law.
I was extremely nervous when I walked into Judge Roll's courtroom. There was a big crowd of supporters and numerous reporters and cameras outside the courthouse. Although I had been to court many times before, this was the first time it was in front of such a crowd of onlookers and the Press and in Federal court. I remember looking at Judge Roll and relaxing somewhat; he was nice looking and rather young, about my age. He had already defended me with at least two pretrial motions that he ruled on, both in my favor. The first one was the Federal Government's attempt to remove me from the case entirely by claiming I had no standing to sue them in the first place. They argued that only the county's Board of Supervisors could represent the county in such legal actions. Judge Roll said this was wrong because it was the sheriff being commandeered by the Federal Government, both officially and personally. Next, my lawyer asked for an injunction against the government from being able to arrest me for "failure to comply." (There was an actual provision in the Brady bill that threatened to arrest the sheriffs if we failed to comply with this unfunded mandate from Congress.) Judge Roll seemed legitimately concerned about this threat throughout the entire lawsuit. Janet Reno herself wrote a memo to the Judge and assured him that the Feds had no intention of arresting me and that the threat of arrest within the language of the Brady bill, was only intended for the gun shop owners, not the sheriffs. Judge Roll, as he announced his decision regarding the injunction said that Janet Reno was not allowed to change the law "by fiat" nor interpret the law for Congress. "Mack's injunction is hereby granted," the Judge said calmly and sternly.
Then as the hearing proceeded I was called to the stand. The butterflies returned big time. As the Justice Department's lawyer cross examined me, she did something unusual; she actually began to address the Judge while I am still sitting on the stand. She said, "why your honor, already in just the first four months of the implementation of the Brady background checks, we have denied over 250,000 felons from gaining access to handguns in this country." I was thinking to myself what a crock her numbers were and wondering why we had so many felons on the streets all trying to buy handguns in government checked gun shops. Suddenly, Judge Roll interrupted the attorney and rebuked her with, "Counselor, do not pretend in this courtroom that your statistical analysis somehow equates to constitutionality." I have to say that Roll's understanding of principles amazed me. He was so professional and knowledgeable. He took his job and the Constitution so seriously. He was truly an exemplary Justice.
When Judge Roll issued his ruling on the Mack v. US case on June 28, 1994, he said two things that absolutely floored me. The first one was the order of the court which summarized his findings:
"The Court finds that in enacting (the Brady bill) Congress exceeded its authority under Article 1, section 8 of the United States Constitution, thereby impermissibly encroaching upon the powers retained by the states pursuant to the Tenth Amendment. The Court further finds that the provision, in conjunction with the criminal sanctions its violation would engender, is unconstitutionally vague under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution."
Judge Roll, of all the dozens of Judges who had heard this case from me and the other six sheriff defendants, was the only one who ruled that the Brady bill violated the Fifth Amendment as well as the Tenth. It was pursuant to Judge Roll's insight and sensitivity to the threat this "law" posed to us, the sheriffs, that this case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
When I read the other Judge Roll principle, it truly brought me to understand how astonishing this man really was. He said:
"Mack is thus forced to choose between keeping his oath or obeying the act, subjecting himself to possible sanctions."
To have a federal Judge actually grasp the full extent of my personal motivation for filing this case was absolutely remarkable. He touched my soul with this comment and it is recorded in my books and memory forever. He was truly before his time. Now, his work is a part of American history. His legacy should be one of honesty, courage, and living up to his oath as a true defender of our nation's rule of law. He changed my life and showed us all that the Constitution is still the supreme law of the land.