A Lewiston native who served two stints as the U.S. Attorney for Maine and decades as a judge, died Monday at the age of 75.
Thomas E. Delahanty II, whose career included service as both a state and federal prosecutor and nearly 30 years on the bench, succumbed to pancreatic cancer. At the time of his death, Delahanty was a Maine Superior Court justice on active retired status.
Gov. Janet Mills on Wednesday called Delahanty “a champion of justice.” She and Delahanty worked together on the Maine Opiate Collaborative when he most recently was U.S. Attorney and she was Maine’s attorney general.
“I respected and admired his intellect, his judgment, and his commitment to protecting and delivering justice under the law for the people of Maine,” she said. “I will miss him but know that Maine is better off as a result of his service.”
In 2017, Mills credited Delahanty with the idea of creating the collaborative to address the state’s opioid addiction crisis.
“This initiative is indicative of the character of Tom Delahanty who has always been out front of the problems of the day,” she said.
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Leigh I. Saufley, former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, knew Delahanty for her entire legal career. She called his death “the end of an era in the Maine judiciary.”
Saufley, now dean of the University of Maine School of Law in Portland, said Wednesday that Delahanty set an example of clarity, hard work and professionalism.
“He was one of the best criminal trial jurists I ever had the pleasure to work with,” she said.” In that role, and during his term as Chief Justice of the Superior Court, he trained and mentored me and so many of our colleagues. Because of his excellent trial management skills, he was often the go-to judge on complex criminal trials, particularly trials with more than one defendant.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Donald Clark called Delahanty “a giant” in Maine’s legal community.
“In addition to his professional accomplishments, he was also an honorable, just man and a devoted husband, father and grandfather,” Clark said. “We at the U.S. Attorney’s office mourn his passing and send our condolences to his family.”
When Delahanty became a lawyer in 1970, he essentially went into the family business. His maternal grandfather, John David Clifford Jr., was a federal judge in Maine. And his father, Thomas E. Delahanty, served on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court from 1973 until 1979 after serving on the Superior Court bench.
The younger Delahanty was the district attorney for Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties before becoming a justice on the Maine Superior Court in 1983. He served as U.S. attorney for Maine for a 15-month stint in 1980 and 1981, and again from 2010 to 2017. He returned to the Superior Court bench part-time after that.
“I really think my years on the bench made me a better [federal] prosecutor,” Delahanty said when he was forced to step aside when President Donald Trump took office. “There were times when some of the assistants would come in and ask, ‘If this were tried in front of you, what would you think?’ And, I think because of that, sometimes the charge might be more or less serious.”
One of the things Delahanty said he was most proud of during his most recent stint as U.S. attorney was the record amount of money, $3.7 million, collected in criminal and civil actions in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2016. That total included the $1.6 million Haynes Timberland Inc. paid to retain ownership of Township 37, where an illegal pot plantation was located.
“That is more than New Hampshire and Vermont [collected] combined,” Delahanty said.
Funeral plans had not been made public Wednesday.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Delehanty’s position as a judge.