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Portland Lawyer Remembered as 'Lawyer's Lawyer' at Memorial Service

Afternoon court proceedings at the Cumberland County Courthouse were delayed Friday afternoon to allow members of Maine’s legal community and the public to attend a memorial service for Portland attorney Peter DeTroy.

The 68-year-old lawyer, who died of a heart attack Saturday, May 28, was recalled by his colleagues as a mentor and peacemaker who devised creative approaches to resolving disputes.

Most of the people who knew DeTroy in and outside of the courtroom described him as an upbeat professional who had a keen intellect, a passion for social justice and who stood up for his clients and friends. He was revered in the Bar as a skilled trial lawyer.

But Chief Justice Leigh Saufley says that what most people didn’t know about DeTroy involved his willingness to safeguard the integrity of his profession.

“One of the things that Peter has done, very quietly, is to help attorneys who were losing their way,” she says.

And by losing their way, Saufley was referring to attorneys who for a variety of reasons had forgotten how to respectfully treat their clients, or each other. She says DeTroy would volunteer to confront his peers when he felt they had crossed the line with respect to their demeanor or presentations.

“Peter and several others who were senior members of the Maine Bar would talk with lawyers and help them figure out a way to do their job really well, while maintaining the integrity of the profession and while being professional and civil and collegial and it was an extraordinary gift to the Maine Bar,” Saufley says.

DeTroy and his law firm, Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, recently won a $14.5 million award in the defamation trial of a former Catholic brother who was alleged to have sexually abused children in a Haitian orphanage.

DeTroy was praised by his peers as a lawyer’s lawyer. He represented former high-profile defense attorney F. Lee Bailey in his unsuccessful bid to be admitted to the Maine Bar. He was also retained by Paul Violette, the former head of the Maine Turnpike Authority, who was convicted of embezzlement charges.

As a tribute to him, Merrill Auditorium was filled Friday afternoon with attorneys and judges and the clients he represented along with his family and friends.