After Attorney General Duke Dunbar’s death in office in 1972, Governor Love took about a month to consider his alternatives before appointing John Moore, the Deputy Attorney General under Duke Dunbar since 1968, to be Colorado’s 32nd Attorney General. Moore had started in the Attorney General’s Office as an Assistant in 1962 at a salary of $500 per month. He had spent five years in the appeals section of the office, during which he argued over 200 cases before the state appellate courts.
John Moore was born in Denver in 1934. Adopted as a child, he attended the Colorado Military Academy and Stanford University. He obtained his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Denver in 1956 and 1959, respectively. Moore would later say he started out to be a doctor, but was inspired to change his plans by a course he took on the Constitution and American government. From 1959 to 1962 he worked in private practice before joining the Legislative Reference Section in the Attorney General’s Office where his job was to draft legislation.
In his two year tenure as Attorney General, Moore oversaw the beginning of a fundamental reorganization of the office. Prior to 1973, most state agencies were represented by assistant solicitors covered by the state personnel system. The solicitors were housed within the agencies they represented and their salaries were paid from agency budgets. This system had become problematic. There were serious differences in legal policy between agencies and the state lacked consistent legal policy in the courts.
In 1973 the legislature moved all the assistant solicitors into the Department of Law and created the position of Solicitor General, appointed by the Attorney General. All the former assistant solicitors became Assistant Attorneys General. Henceforth, Assistant Attorneys General would not be part of the state personnel system. The legislation, carried by State Senator Bill Armstrong, effectively ended internal agency counsel by prohibiting any state agency from employing a person to perform “legal services.” As a tradeoff, the Attorney General’s Office would be subject to a new funding mechanism. Under the “Oregon Plan” the legislature would appropriate legal services funding to state agencies, who in turn would purchase such services from the Attorney General’s Office at an hourly rate.
Moore also pressed several antitrust cases and encouraged the legislature to pass tougher laws. He beefed up the consumer protection effort of the office and began taking consumer complaints directly. He negotiated a first of its kind contract allowing the State Health Department to make onsite inspections of the Atomic Energy Commission facility at Rocky Flats.
In 1973 the Attorney General’s Office told the Joint Budget Committee it could not micromanage the Governor’s administration of the executive branch through footnotes in the annual appropriation bill. But over the next 35 years the tension between the legislature and the Governor continued, despite a decision of the State Supreme Court affirming that the Governor could veto footnotes or headnotes that infringed on executive powers.
Attorney General Moore drafted legislation that created a statewide grand jury and permitted the Attorney General to take multi-jurisdictional cases to the grand jury with the consent of the District Attorney in whose district the cases arose. Moore also clarified that “ultimate control over higher education in Colorado rests with the General Assembly” and that all employees of colleges and universities in Colorado were part of the state personnel system, “unless otherwise exempted by law.” In 1973 Colorado embarked on its most ambitious engineering project to date. The Eisenhower Tunnel through the Continental Divide on Interstate 70 would facilitate traffic to the state’s ski resorts.
The top management in the Attorney General’s Office under John Moore included Deputy Attorney General John Bush and Solicitor General Roger Allott. Allott’s father, Gordon, was a U. S. Senator for Colorado. Moore’s salary was $14,000. It was also during Moore’s tenure that the office acquired its first computer, a “huge” IBM that took up “half the room,” according to Moore.
After considerable deliberation, Moore chose to run for election as Attorney General in 1974. Unfortunately for him, in the aftermath of Watergate, it was a disastrous year for Republicans. Democrat Richard Lamm defeated incumbent John Vanderhoof for Governor and J. D. MacFarlane handily defeated Moore. “J. D. whipped the daylights out of me,” Moore said.
But Moore was a very talented lawyer, and upon leaving office in 1975 he was appointed a United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of Colorado. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan nominated him to a seat on the U.S. District Court in Colorado and in 1985 he was nominated by Reagan and confirmed by the Senate for a seat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. He assumed senior status in 1999.
In 1996, Moore decided to take his birth name, John C. Porfilio. A devoted fan of British spy novels and a master chef of Italian cuisine, Porfilio and his wife Joan live in Denver. They have three children.