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Van Cise Project
Van Cise Project

Campaign to Commemorate the Philip S. Van Cise Detention Center

Resolutions, Presentations & Speeches


For an ordinance naming the detention center building located at 490 West Colfax Avenue as the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center.
WHEREAS, Philip Van Cise and L. John Simonet share a legacy of outstanding achievements in the criminal justice system; and
WHEREAS, Philip Van Cise, a remarkable Denver District Attorney from 1921 to 1925 who prosecuted the Lou Blonger Bunko Gang, achieving a 100% conviction rate, Van Cise is credited with breaking the back of organized crime in the City and the Ku Klux Klan upon completion of an extensive and dangerous undercover investigation of Klan activities; Van Cise contributed to many other legal endeavors including developing a judicial merit system to remove politics from judicial appointments; and
WHEREAS, L. John Simonet served as director of corrections for the City and County of Denver for 18 years during which he established a new culture of professionalism at the City and County detention facilities, initiating the first treatment and education programs, like the GED to help inmates transition successfully back into the community, and modeled the humane treatment of all inmates, earning the respect of sheriffs who worked under him and all who worked with him; and
WHEREAS, the Denver Revised Municipal Code (Section 2-275) vests in City Council the authority to name public buildings, and in accordance with the ordinance, the new detention center at 14th and Elati streets was duly posted offering the public an opportunity to submit petitions for naming of the detention facility; a petition containing not less than 100 signatures was received proposing that the detention center be named for Philip Van Cise, and a separate petition containing not less than 100 signatures was received proposing that the detention center be named for L. John Simonet; and
WHEREAS, the City Council has determined that Philip Van Cise and L. John Simonet are outstanding persons who have been influential in the cultural, political, economical, or social life of the community.
SECTION 1. The detention center located at 490 West Colfax Avenue shall henceforth be known as the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center.

Final Draft Of Resolution By The Denver Law Club In Support of Van Cise Detention Center at the new Justice complex


WHEREAS, Philip S. Van Cise served with courage and distinction as District Attorney of the City and County of Denver from 1921 to 1925; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise, as District Attorney, cleaned up Denver by bringing down the notorious Lou Blonger gang of criminals and confidence men, who had controlled illegal gambling, bunco schemes, and prostitution and had intimidated and bribed authorities; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise went on to investigate and battle the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado and, despite having to endure cross burnings and death threats, brought an end to the Klan's stranglehold of power in our state; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise served with distinction in the Colorado National Guard and was a member of a three-person board that investigated and refused to whitewash the shameful participation of the National Guard in the Ludlow labor massacre and recommended general court-martial for all Guard personnel who had participated; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise later served as an intelligence officer in France in World War I, achieving the rank of Colonel; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise had an outstanding career in civil law practice until his semi-retirement in 1958; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise served as President of the Colorado Bar Association and was the first recipient of its highest honor, the Award of Merit; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise was a founder of the Law Club of Denver; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise's father, Edwin Van Cise, was a distinguished attorney and judge, and

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise's son, Edwin P. Van Cise, was also a distinguished attorney and judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals; and, finally,

WHEREAS, Mr. Van Cise's peerless and courageous service to the justice system and the People of Denver and the State of Colorado has not yet received its well-deserved recognition and appreciation;

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT HEREBY RESOLVED that the Law Club of Denver enthusiastically supports and advocates the adoption by the Denver City Council of the name the "Van Cise Detention Center" at Denver's new Justice Center.

Dated this 28th day of January, 2009.


/s/ Kenneth M. Laff, President

Presentation by Cindy Van Cise

It is an honor to be here today with the other nominees for the naming of the Justice Center. Everyone nominated is certainly a giant in Colorado History. The Van Cise name has quietly carried with it a legacy honoring the principled practice of law over a cumulative 116 years of historic service and is unmatched in Colorado History. These LIONS OF THE LAW are as follows:

Edwin A. Van Cise (1842-1914)

*Supreme Court Justice in Deadwood South Dakota

  • Opened a law practice in Denver in 1900
  • Taught theory of law class at the University of Colorado
  • Served as first President of Denver Public Utilities Commission and was instrumental in ruling against private franchising of public water rights thus protecting Colorado municipal water rights.

Edwin P. "Ned" Van Cise (1917- 2001)

  • Taught law at the University of Denver Law School
  • Represented the Better Business, Denver Post and Rocky Mountain in Libel cases
  • Appointed to the Colorado State Appellate Court in 1974
  • Rewrote judge's instructions to jurors in civil jury trials
  • Considered by peers to be the "legal man's legal mind" Mentor to Dale Tooley as law partner, Ed Ruland, Appellate Court Judge, and many young attorneys and judges

Philip S. Van Cise (1884-1969)

  • Led in the establishment of the Colorado Guard and served as Colonel for decades
  • Investigated and recommended court martial for Company B, that helped precipitate and condone the Ludlow Massacre. Railed against the governors' white washing of the report that clearly proved blame on the Lt. Karl A. Linderfelt and his troop.
  • One of the organizers of the Marcellus Chiles Post of the American Legion (later the Leyden, Chiles, Wickesham Post #1. The legion, with Van Cise playing the prominent roll helped keep Law and Order during the potentially violent Denver Tramway Strike in 1920. Gained the title "the fighting man for a fighting job".
  • 1926, One of 3 members of the National Crime Commission which with the Association of States Attorneys General tried to set up model legislation to regulate the use and possession of fire arms.
  • Became the "legendary" Denver District Attorney who broke the back of organized crime, corruption and bigotry in Denver
  • Prosecuted Lou Blonger of the Bunko Gang, who had a strangle hold on Denver for 20 years.
  • Achieved 44 convictions out of 45 indictments, the 45th turned states evidence, that is a 100% conviction rate.
  • Purged the Denver Jury pool of Klan Members
  • Made an extensive and dangerous undercover investigation of the Ku Klux Klan resulting in the eradication of Klan activities in Denver
  • Libel Attorney for the Rocky Mountain News during the investigation of Fred Bonfils, Bonfils died before trial, blackballed in Denver for standing up to the Bonfils Family,until 1950's
  • In 1940's Chaired the Supreme Court Rules Committee, which devoted countless hours to revising the Colorado Rules of Civil procedure to conform to the newly enacted Federal Rules.
  • Colorado Bar Association President 1941-1942
  • Chaired the Colorado Bar Association's Judiciary Committee
  • Advocated for court reform and promoted the adoption of the Judicial Merit Selection System to take judges out of politics.
  • Adopted this Merit System of judge selection through a ballot issue in 1966
  • Used by other states as a model for non-partisan judicial appointments
  • Selected in 1986 as one of the "Six of the Greatest" lawyers in Colorado history in the official publication of the Colorado Bar's, The Colorado Lawyer
  • Honored in the 1992 Denver Post article COLORADO 100, for the hero's who made a lasting impact on Colorado
  • Listed in the Rocky Mountain News on November 22, 2008, the State's 150th birthday, as one of Denver's undaunted heroes in his courage and success in challenging the Ku Klux Klan
  • Honored and highlighted in the Colorado History Museum 150 celebration for his heroism in fighting the KKK in Colorado
  • Earned the University of Colorado's gold medal for distinguished service to the state
  • Made an honorary member of Denver's Police Protective Association
  • Honored in 1949 with the first "Award of Merit" given by the Colorado Bar Association, the highest honor bestowed by the Colorado Bar, the only one of our nominees today.

In our initial petition we asked that the Detention Building to be named after either the Legacy of the three Van Cise men, or named after Philip S. Van Cise, Denver's Fighting DA. He courageously accomplished more in 4 years than any other DA in Colorado history, cleaning up Denver from the clutches of organized crime and leading the fight with Judge Lindsey and others in the state house to expose the underbelly of bigotry, hatred, and racism of the Ku Klux Klan.

If Council chooses not to change or amend the naming committees' recommendations we ask that the council consider the other naming opportunity, the Justice Center itself, to be called either : The Van Cise Justice Center or The Philip S. Van Cise Justice Center.

That you for this opportunity to speak with you.

Cindy Van Cise

Speech by Patricia Gorman Barry

Good Morning. I would like to thank Councilman Linkhart and members of the City Council's Safety Committee for this opportunity to provide citizen input. I, my family and friends, support naming a judicial building after the collective service and legacy made to Denver and Colorado by the Van Cise family.

My name is Patricia Gorman Barry. I have lived in Denver since 1958. I, my husband Don Eberle, and three of my siblings and their families live in Coucilwoman Jeannie Robb's district.

The last 50-60 years in Denver have been tame compared to the preceding generations. The Western History Reading Room of the Denver Public Library contains a chilling photograph of a Klu Klux Klan rally on top of Table Mesa, in Golden. I remember my shock at first seeing the picture and recognizing the familiar site filled with white hooded figures with crosses standing around a large fire. It was a history lesson I did not learn in school, but from the oral history told me by the parents and grandparents of friends who remembered the Klan's penetration of city and state government in the early 1920's.

One of these stories was told to me by Theresa Brofman, widow Judge David Brofman. Theresa talked of how Philip Van Cise, as Denver's District Attorney, took on the Klu Klux Klan, and the danger he brought to himself and his family. Theresa said that Philip Van Cise was a mentor to her husband, who later became a renowned probate judge. Other great judicial figures, like O. Otto Moore, served under and with the Van Cise's.

Esteemed men and women rise to leadership roles in every generation, but the Van Cise family of leaders dealt with some of the greatest legal challenges in Colorado's history. The number and quality of their contributions is unsurpassed. I have mentioned but one story from their legacy. Van Cise for Justice will help future generations remember and acknowledge the laws they crafted, the example they set, and the code of honor they lived.

Thank you.

Pat Gorman Barry


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