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TCL > July 2014 Issue > Leonard M. Campbell (1918–2006)

July 2014       Vol. 43, No. 7       Page  33
Four of the Greatest

Leonard M. Campbell (1918–2006)
by Brian T. Campbell

About the Author

Brian T. Campbell is a Denver County Court Judge, and the son of Leonard M. Campbell— He thanks Judge Larry L. Bohning for his assistance in preparing the profile.


Chronicling the professional life of an "Outstanding Lawyer in Colorado History" is a daunting task in its own right. When the author is the son of the honoree, the challenge is even more daunting. Fortunately, I was ably assisted in the assignment by my friend and colleague Judge Larry L. Bohning, who did much of the legwork and headwork for this article. I am in his debt.

It is difficult, in a biography, to separate the professional man from the family man. Although it is possible to focus on the professional life of Leonard Campbell, it would not be an entirely accurate profile if no attention was paid to his family life. Leonard Martin Peter Campbell was not the kind of man who could leave either his work at the office or his personal life at home. Both were inextricably interwoven. For him, work and home complemented each other.

My earliest memory of Leonard Campbell the lawyer was when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I remember that he would bring work home. He would sit in his big chair in the living room with a book balanced on the arm of a chair and a pad of yellow paper on his lap. He always used a fat fountain pen to draw—at least that is what I thought he was doing. I would climb onto the back of the chair and place one leg on each side of his neck. Then, I would proceed to play barber, combing his hair from one side to the other, pretending to cut it with my fingers. Having given him a haircut, I would mess up his hair and repeat the process until I grew tired. I don’t know which was greater, his power of concentration or his patience, because surely both were being tested; regardless, he never said a word about what I was doing. Years later, I concluded that his concentration and patience were equally strong and that both definitely served him well in his professional life and his family life.

The Early Years

  Dot Jo and Leonard Campbell were married for sixty-two years. It was such an idyllic relationship that Dot Jo frequently said she lived in "Campbellot."

Leonard Martin Campbell (Peter was added as a confirmation name) was born in Denver on April 12, 1918. He was the second of two sons born to Bernard Francis Campbell and Mary Ellen Moran Campbell. Bernard had come to Leadville in the 1880s to live with his father, Bryan Campbell, who had come to Leadville in 1879. Bernard was first married to Agnes Dunn in Leadville in 1894. They had six daughters during their ten-year marriage. Agnes passed away in 1904. Bernard and Mary Ellen were married in 1914.

Leonard’s father passed away in 1923. Leonard was raised by his mother, and after she passed away in 1938, by his brother and his six half-sisters. It was a close-knit family. The half-sisters played a significant role in Leonard’s life, but the mutual support of Leonard and his brother Bernard, which started at an early age, was paramount in the future success of each. Bernard helped Leonard through law school; in return, Leonard helped Bernard through medical school. Each provided the other financial and moral support.

Leonard attended Denver’s Corona Elementary School at 8th and Corona, when Dora Moore, for whom the school is now named, was principal. It is a little known fact that, despite his reputation for intelligence, Leonard failed kindergarten. It seems that when Bernard went to kindergarten, Leonard went with him, liked what he saw, and decided to stay. Using the powers of persuasion that would serve him well throughout his life, he was allowed to continue to attend all year; however, when Bernard was allowed to move on to first grade, Leonard had to repeat kindergarten.

Leonard graduated from East High School, and then the University of Colorado (CU), where he earned first his undergraduate degree, and then a juris doctor degree from CU Law School in 1942. He met his lifelong love, Dorothy Josephine Francis Baker (Dot Jo), while busing tables at the dormitory. They were married in 1944 as World War II was ending. His commitment to the U.S. Army/Air Corps also was drawing to an end. Leonard was fond of pointing out that he served in the Army with Eisenhower. However, when pressed, he would admit that while Eisenhower was stationed in Europe, he was stationed in Ft. Logan and Miami, Florida. The two days he celebrated throughout his life were the day he married my mother and the day he was honorably discharged from the military.

Politics or Law—An Avocation Versus His Vocation

After the war ended, Leonard interviewed with John Gorsuch and Fred Kirgis for a job at the law firm the two gentlemen were starting. They were impressed with his credentials but told him that the nephew of Fred Kirgis, Roscoe Walker, was graduating in a year from the University of Oklahoma College of Law, and they wanted to give the job to him. Having grown up during the De-pression, Leonard knew the importance of a job, so he made daily trips to the law firm to try to convince them to hire him. He just knew that the law firm was going to be big enough for the four of them. Gorsuch and Kirgis ultimately capitulated, after Ed King, the dean of the CU Law School, "told them that Leonard was, in fact, something of a character—but that there was no one who would be better suited to practice law with."1

A secure job also gave him a chance to explore politics, which would be a lifelong avocation for Leonard. Denver recently had elected a new mayor, Quigg Newton, and the breath of fresh air was so intoxicating that Leonard joined the mayor’s Cabinet, first as Manager of Safety from November 1947 to September 1948, and later as the City Attorney from 1951 to 1953. In 1951, at age 33, he was Denver’s youngest City Attorney. That distinction continues today.

During this time, Leonard decided to run for office himself, as a candidate for the Denver Public School Board. He was defeated. Ultimately, John Gorsuch and Fred Kirgis told Leonard that he needed to decide which career path he wanted to pursue. It was not a difficult choice: he chose the law. Still, Leonard occasionally allowed his attention to be diverted to politics. For example, in 1960, he was the campaign manager for George Cavenaugh in a Denver Mayor’s race that ended in victory for Richard Batterton. Four years later, he successfully managed the campaign of Auditor Thomas Currigan for Denver Mayor. After Tom Currigan left office and went on to be the chair of Continental Airlines, Leonard occasionally offered advice to Denver Mayor Bill McNichols.

The Practice of Law

In the 1950s, Gorsuch and Kirgis was a general practice firm emphasizing civil litigation and transaction law. Over the years, it grew into Gorsuch, Kirgis, Campbell, Walker, and Grover. The firm expanded not only its size, but also its emphasis, which now included labor law, natural resources law, and public utilities law. The early days have been described in somewhat idyllic terms. The partners enjoyed each other’s company so much that, on occasion, a couple of them would carpool to work. Andrew Cohen, a firm alumnus, captured the era in a 2005 Denver Post article:

These men built and maintained a partnership that started before the Cold War began and ended only after mankind began to explore the surface of Mars. . . . They were connected in ways that went beyond partnership documents. They drove to work together. They ate together. They spent the time it took to develop levels of trust and commitment that carried them through financial disputes about salaries and commissions and case loads and the rest.2

In the same article, Cohen complimented Gorsuch, Kirgis, Campbell, Walker, and Grover for being "one of the more humane places to practice law in town." This atmosphere produced many fine attorneys, including Roy Romer, who left Gorsuch and Kirgis early in his legal career to pursue other paths, politics among them.

Left to right: Roscoe Walker, Charles Grover, Fred Kirgis, John Gorsuch, and Leonard Campbell.

A Legal Pioneer in Public Utilities Law

John Gorsuch and Charles Grover developed reputations for excellence in labor law, and Fred Kirgis and Roscoe Walker became recognized authorities on natural resource law. Leonard’s forte was public utilities law, and his biggest client was the Colorado Municipality League. His longtime friend and partner, Ben Aisenberg, describes Leonard as "having a steel-trap mind. He could take a problem, quickly and effectively analyze it, and come up with a practical solution."3 This trait fit well with Public Utilities Commission (PUC) cases, which often were fraught with tedious numerical figures and details, but also involved a practical end. Many rate-hike requests filed with the Colorado PUC by either Public Service Company of Colorado or Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph (Mountain States) drew a response from the Colorado Municipal League and its attorney, Leonard Campbell, so an ability to recall game plans and what was said in earlier applications was an advantage.

An unexpected result of this somewhat "closed society" is that it was the epitome of job security. The utility company would file a request for a rate increase and a hearing would be set. In the interim, the case was prepared and experts were hired. The PUC would issue its ruling, and inevitably one side or the other would appeal to the district court. After months of preparation, a hearing would be held, and some months later, a decision would be rendered. Rarely were both sides happy with the result, so the matter inevitably would be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. Of course, this required additional months of preparation and ultimately argument. A decision by the Colorado Supreme Court would put an end to the case, but the process had taken so long that it would be time for the utility to file for a rate increase.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Leonard was a legal pioneer. He was one of the few private practice attorneys who could list public utilities law as a specialty practice area. His exposure to this niche area of the law came primarily as a result of his stint as Denver’s City Attorney in the 1950s. Leonard’s expertise rapidly developed in the regulation of electric, gas, and telephone utilities. This practice area gained considerable steam in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a combination of higher capital costs and fuel shortages spiked the number of rate cases brought before the Colorado PUC.

Leonard quickly developed the reputation of a fierce public advocate on behalf of consumers resisting increases in utility rates. He had a keen understanding of the complexity of accounting, rate of return, and expense allocation that form the basis of state regulation over utility rates. To say he was a thorn in the side of investor-owned utilities in Colorado is putting it mildly. His skill at presenting and cross-examining expert witnesses was a treat to watch, and his ability to develop novel legal solutions in complex utility cases was remarkable.

Utilities Coups

Leonard was most proud of two legal achievements in the utilities field. The first involved the development of a toll-free metropolitan Denver calling zone. In the early 1960s, this was a most contentious proceeding before the PUC. The telephone company naturally desired the smallest toll-free geographic zone. The Colorado Municipal League, represented by Leonard, desired a more expansive zone. The PUC ultimately established what was at that time the largest metropolitan toll-free calling zone in the nation, stretching from Castle Rock to Boulder. The advent of cell phones has diminished the significance of this result, but for decades all calls within this expansive Denver metropolitan area were considered "local" calls, for which no additional charges were made. The Colorado Municipal League later learned from many other metropolitan areas throughout the country that they were envious of the scope of Denver’s toll-free calling zone.

The second utility achievement that made Leonard proud began in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Leonard understood that a utility’s reasonable costs for attorney fees and expert witness fees were recovered by the utility in rate cases and charged to customers as an expense of regulation. Leonard thought this principle also should apply to consumer advocates who resisted rate increases. To that end, he doggedly pursued a legal solution. He ultimately was successful in persuading the PUC and Colorado Supreme Court that the PUC had the inherent constitutional authority to award attorney fees when the Commission found that (1) the participation represented the general consumer interest; (2) the participation was exceptional and materially assisted the PUC in reaching its decisions; and (3) the fees and costs were reasonable.4

Colleagues of Leonard insist that this legal accomplishment led investor-owned utilities to finally agree to support state legislation that led to the creation of a new state agency, the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC). The OCC remains active and dedicated today in supporting the interests of residential, small business, and agricultural customers in regulated utility proceedings. However, in an indirect manner, the regulated utilities chipped away at the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Co. v. Public Utilities Commission5 decision by their support of a provision in the OCC legislation that prohibited the PUC from awarding attorney fees to other customer intervenors if the OCC participated in a utility case. Nevertheless, Leonard’s colleagues give him full credit for advocating an even playing field in utility rate cases that has redounded to the benefit of consumers in Colorado for more than thirty years.

A Man of Skill and Integrity

Leonard’s reputation for having tremendous integrity was well recognized in the utility field. He represented many publicly owned and cooperatively owned utilities throughout the state, including Aspen, Delta, Empire, Estes Park, Fountain, Gunnison, Holly, La Junta, Lamar, Las Animas, Loveland, Oak Creek, Springfield, and Trinidad Electric Association. He served as general counsel to the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities for close to twenty years. In the 1970s, he was instrumental in co-authoring a constitutional and a legislative provision authorizing the creation of publicly owned power authorities. He later would serve with distinction as the general counsel of the Arkansas River Power Authority, which awarded him their Honor Roll of Merit award in the 1980s.

Leonard’s practice of mentoring young lawyers skilled in utility regulation developed into a tradition that continues to this day. His disciples include the chief regulatory counsel of Public Service Company, general counsel for a Colorado public power authority, and a former president of the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities.6

Leonard might have been a thorn in the side of the utility companies; however, the "ebb and flow" that was a hallmark of PUC cases gives the impression that each side had a great deal of respect for the other. This could have been because the practice of law was different in the 1960s and 1970s, or perhaps because the litigants and the attorneys knew that it was only a matter of time before they would face off against each other again. Leonard’s half-sister was employed her entire life by the Bell Telephone System, and one of his close friends was an officer with the telephone company. The closest thing to a disparaging remark Leonard Campbell ever made came when his friend gave him a sign with the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph insignia on it that included the language "Public Enemy No. 1." Leonard displayed the sign in the recreation room in the basement of our house.

Legal Community Leadership

That Leonard got along with and was respected by the participants in the specialized PUC work was well known. He also was known for going out of his way to help fellow attorneys. Robert Kapelke, a longtime friend and partner, recalls one attorney who had a reputation for being obnoxious. Leonard had a case in Arapahoe County against this attorney who was at a bit of a disadvantage, because the attorney could not drive. Leonard would pick up the attorney every morning, they would drive to Arapahoe County and do battle during the day, and then Leonard would drive the attorney back home at night.7 Leonard’s practice of mentoring young lawyers, another aspect of his leadership, featured prominently in his obituary as a significant contribution to the success of the Gorsuch, Kirgis, Campbell, Walker, and Grover law firm.8

Leonard was deeply committed to both the Colorado Bar Association (CBA) and the Denver Bar Association (DBA). He served on many association committees, and ultimately served as president of the DBA during 1969–70 and as president of the CBA during 1978–79. Judge Gary Jackson remembers that during Leonard’s term as CBA president, as well as the year before and the year after, Leonard toured the state advocating for continuing legal education.9 He also was an active member of the Catholic Lawyers’ Guild, receiving the Saint Thomas More Award in 1979. He was a charter member of the Minoru Yasui Inn of Court and served as its treasurer during its first years in existence. The Inn honored Leonard by naming one of its mentoring programs after him.

In addition to purely legal contributions, Leonard served as a member of the Charter Commission for Denver in 1947 and on the Denver Planning Board from 1947 to 1950. He was chair of the Human Relations Commission of Denver and vice president of the National Institute of Municipal Law Officers. He also contributed to the community through his service on the Denver Water Board from 1965 to 1970, serving as its president during 1968–70.

Leonard was a strong supporter of his alma mater, especially the law school, giving generously to both. On a personal note, while going through law school, Leonard occasionally would run out of money during the semester. When this happened, he would borrow money from a faculty member and pay it back by the end of the semester. (It was also during these times when his brother Bernard would come to his aid.) Even though he was able to pay it back by the end of the semester, he rarely had enough money to make it to the end of the new semester, and the process repeated itself until the end of his law school career. Leonard never forgot the assistance he received during these financially difficult times, and once established in life and practice himself, he created a fund at CU Law School, where students could borrow money during the course of the semester, with the inention of repaying it in the future. In recognition of his commitment to CU Law School, as well as for his achievements in the law, Leonard was awarded the CU Alumni Achievement Award in 1985 and the William Lee Knous Award—the law school’s highest honor—in 1991.

The Complete Picture—The Complete Man

Leonard Campbell on the podium, at one of his proudest moments: sharing his blessings with his great-granddaughter Kelsi Nusbaum and his granddaughter Becky Nusbaum.  

Having explored Leonard Martin Campbell’s early years, his achievements as a practicing attorney with a prominent law firm, and his leadership in the legal community, two stories remain to be told. First, it should be reiterated that Leonard made a lifelong commitment to education—early on by helping his brother through medical school, and then by supporting his alma mater and promoting continued legal education. His final endorsement of education was when he purchased, for his great granddaughter Kelsi Jo, the first certificate in the Colorado Prepaid Tuition Plan. Leonard, his granddaughter Becky, and Kelsi Jo were all on stage with Gorsuch Kirgis alumnus Governor Roy Romer, when the governor presented the first certificate to Kelsi Jo Nusbaum. After the ceremony, Leonard’s granddaughter Becky Nusbaum thanked him for his generosity to Kelsi Jo, to which Leonard responded, "It’s the least that I can do. I won’t be here when she needs it." In that sense, Leonard’s commitment to education was longer than a lifelong commitment.

If there was one commitment stronger than education in Leonard’s life it was his commitment to his family. In the introduction of this profile, I shared a recollection about him as a father. Actually, the story that best describes his ability to synthesize his professional life with his personal life in such a way that everyone knew he cared for them arises out of his efforts, in 1964, to get elected to the position of Regent at his alma mater. He began that effort in late winter or early spring of 1964. By mid-spring it became evident that it was going to be a good financial year for the Gorsuch, Kirgis law firm, and it also became apparent that it would be a quiet summer for PUC work. It was an excellent summer to run for Regent. However, his children were 16, 13, and 9 years old. Leonard always wanted to give them the things that he had not gotten as a child, and so, in the midst of his campaign, he took his family on a ten-week tour of sixteen nations in Europe. It was a grand learning experience for the children—and the adults. Given Leonard’s performance at the polls, it is doubtful that the hiatus had much effect on his loss. However, years later, his campaign manager, Probate Court Public Administrator Andrew Wysowatcky, commented:

I was so mad at your father when he told me that he was going to take his family to Europe in the middle of the campaign but, you know what, all I can say is that he had his priorities right.10

Leonard Campbell truly was an "Outstanding Lawyer in Colorado History." It is only appropriate that this tribute to him end with his own words. He was fond of saying these words at the end of his personal encounters: "Good bye. Good luck. God bless."


1. Comments from CU’s award ceremony, where Leonard Campbell was presented the William Lee Knous Award.

2. Cohen, "Denver law firm’s demise a lesson for us all," The Denver Post (Jan. 28, 2005). After Andrew Cohen left the firm, he went on to become a CBS legal analyst and a contributing author to The Atlantic magazine.

3. Telephone conversation with Bennett S. Aisenberg in Denver (April 22, 2014).

4. Mountain States Tel. and Tel. Co. v. Pub. Utils. Comm’n, 502 P. 2d 945 (1972).

5. Id.

6. Comments by William E. McEwan in Denver (April 7, 2014).

7. Conversation Robert J. Kapelke in Colorado Springs (April 25, 2014).

8. Martin, "Leonard Martin Campbell Obituary" The Denver Post (July 18, 2006).

9. Comments by Judge Gary Jackson (Dec. 5, 2013).

10. Comments by Andrew Wysowatcky (Aug. 1967).

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