PORTLAND, Maine — Maine’s legal community Tuesday mourned the death of one of its most revered members.
Peter J. DeTroy III, a partner in the law firm of Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, died of an apparent heart attack Saturday in Portland. He was 68.
A memorial service will be held at noon Friday in Merrill Auditorium in Portland.
“Peter DeTroy was a wonderful leader and role model, the very best of what a good lawyer can be,” Leigh I. Saufley, chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, said in statement released Sunday. “His intellect, integrity and personal ability to connect with everyone made him a role model for the whole profession. He leaves a position of respect and counsel at the top of Maine legal practice that will be difficult to replace.”
U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, the chief judge for the federal court in Maine, praised DeTroy’s legacy on Tuesday.
“Peter DeTroy was an exceptional advocate who had the respect of all of the judges on the federal bench,” she said. “Peter was a public-spirited attorney who was a leader of the bar and who undertook frequent pro bono assignments. He was deeply committed to the law and the judicial process and will be remembered for his collegiality, civility and integrity. He sincerely cared about people, and we will miss him greatly.”
DeTroy and his firm recently won a $14.5 million award in a defamation trial in U.S. District Court. He represented former Catholic brother Michael Geilenfeld of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and the nonprofit Hearts with Haiti, which sued Paul Kendrick of Freeport in 2013 for a campaign the Maine man launched against Geilenfeld and the North Carolina-based nonprofit for which he worked in 2011. Kendrick alleged Geilenfeld sexually abused children he had taken in at an orphanage in Haiti and that the nonprofit had turned a blind eye, according to a previously published report.
David King, whose firm represented Kendrick, praised DeTroy’s skills as a litigator.
“I have known Peter since we both started practicing law,” King said Tuesday. “He was a tenacious advocate for his clients while personifying the highest level of civility. It is not always easy to represent clients vigorously, and still be civil to opponents and the court. Peter was able to strike that delicate balance.”
The case has been appealed to the 1st U.S. District Court of Appeals in Boston.
DeTroy also represented F. Lee Bailey in his unsuccessful bid to practice law in Maine. Other clients have included Russell “Rusty” Brace of Rockport and Paul Violette, former head of the Maine Turnpike Authority, both of whom were convicted of embezzlement.
Four years ago, the Maine Law Alumni Association presented its Distinguished Service Award to DeTroy, in part, because of his commitment to mentoring young lawyers.
Devin Deane of South Portland graduated from the University of Maine School of Law and joined DeTroy’s firm in 2012.
“He is literally best man I’ve ever met,” Deane said Tuesday. “He taught me to be a lawyer and a man. This was a once in a lifetime relationship. He was an incredibly perfect human being.
“Peter was the heart and a soul of this firm,” Deane continued. “He was a perfect leader who got the best out of everyone because he was able to convince them that they are just as capable as he was.”
DeTroy received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in 1969 before attending the University of Maine School of Law, where he graduated in 1972. DeTroy joined the law firm that bears his name five years later.
He is survived by his wife, Mary Roy, his mother, Christine Meiners DeTroy, six children and stepchildren and one grandchild.
Those who would like to make a charitable contribution in his memory are asked to consider donating to one of these organizations: Preble Street, 38 Preble St., Portland; Shalom House, 106 Gilman St., Portland; Friends School of Portland, 11 U.S. Route 1, Cumberland.