A Van Cise reprise in the Justice Center debate

a van cise photo.jpg
Philip Van Cise.

As Christoper Osher reports in this Denver Post article, Mayor John Hickenlooper has added one more to the list of candidates whose names might end up on portions of the new city justice complex: Van Cise. Gangbusting DA Philip Van Cise, the son of a prominent attorney and father of a state appeals court judge, was snubbed by the task force appointed to come up with suitable names, as noted in my previous blog, "No Justice for Van Cise?"

It would be tempting to believe that Hick heeded my appeal to reconsider Van Cise, for all the reasons found in our 2008 feature, "Scourge of the Underworld," which examined his heroic battle against a mobbed-up city administration and the Ku Klux Klan in Denver's Roaring Twenties. But it's more probable that Hizzoner was impressed with the heartfelt campaign conducted by the Van Cise family, including Phil's granddaughter Cindy, and by the fact there are several naming opportunities available in the new complex, from the jail to the courthouse to the plaza.

Other contenders at this point include Denver judges Ben Lindsey and James Flanigan, 1970s DA Dale Tooley and former (and still-living) manager of safety John Simonet.

The City Council will make the ultimate decision on who gets their names in big, bronze letters after a committee meeting on Wednesday, February 18, at 9:15 a.m. at 1437 Bannock Street (City and County Building, fourth floor). Cindy Van Cise is hoping to marshal supporters and make a case for her grandfather without slighting any of the other trailblazers under consideration. The task force has suggested that the courthouse be named after Lindsey and Flanigan, the plaza after Tooley and the detention center in honor of Simonet.

Osher reports that Hick's e-mail on the matter actually suggested Van Cise for the detention center -- a fitting tribute, perhaps, since in 1922 he rounded up dozens of members of Lou Blonger's mob and stuck them in a local church basement because the local jailer was thick with the thieves. But Cindy Van Cise sees a way to squeeze another name onto the rolls without upsetting any apple carts.

"The one area that hasn't been named is the justice center itself," she says. "Why can't it be the Van Cise Justice Center?"

Why not indeed?


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