Peter J. DeTroy, a prominent Portland lawyer who was well-known throughout Maine and was involved in a number of high-profile cases, died Saturday, his family said. He was 68.
DeTroy collapsed while riding his bicycle near his home on Munjoy Hill. His wife, Mary Roy, said he died of a heart attack.
Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, the head of Maine’s Judicial Branch, said in a statement “Peter DeTroy was a wonderful leader and role model, the very best of what a good lawyer can be. 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.”
Former Gov. John Baldacci told the Portland Press Herald on Sunday that DeTroy was “one of the top five lawyers in the state.”
“He was a lawyer’s lawyer,” Baldacci said. “He was a real leader in the community, but he was always humble and earnest.”
In 2015, DeTroy, representing the owner of a Haitian orphanage, won a $14.5 million award in a long-running defamation case. DeTroy successfully argued that a Freeport man who started an email campaign accusing the owner of the orphanage of sexually abusing children in his care had defamed his client.
DeTroy’s closing statement held the courtroom “spellbound,” Roy said.
After the verdict was announced last July, DeTroy said the case was about “cyberbullying.”
“The keyboard is a lot mightier than the pen and the sword,” he said “They are instantaneous, and they can eviscerate a person’s reputation and life’s work.”
The case is being appealed.
DeTroy also represented nationally known lawyer F. Lee Bailey, a former defense attorney in the O.J. Simpson trial, when Bailey was trying to obtain a law license in Maine in 2014. More recently in an appeal case, he represented a convicted murderer at the Maine State Prison who had been threatened with discipline if he wrote for the news media again under a byline. The Department of Corrections later revised its inmate discipline policy to allow that practice.
Roy said being an attorney was not just a job for her husband, but a passion.
“He brought humanity into his profession,” Roy said in an interview Sunday. “He wanted to deeply understand the human beings he was dealing with.”
Charlotte DeTroy, Peter’s daughter, said that everyone she met had a kind word to say about her father.
“So many people have come up to me and told me that he was like a second father to them,” she said. “He saw the good in you even if you didn’t see it in yourself.”
Charlotte DeTroy said that despite the numerous professional accomplishments of her father, his family was most important and always came first.
A voracious reader, he loved learning about everything, including other countries. He could talk about the latest sports scores just as easily as current events in Chile, Ghana or Maine.
He enjoyed traveling, hiking, music, sports and was a “foodie.”
“He really was a Renaissance man,” Charlotte DeTroy said.
DeTroy previously lived for many years in Falmouth, and was a former member of the school board there.
“He was interested in everything, and it didn’t matter what it was,” said Alysia Zoidis, his stepdaughter. “This is a huge loss for the community.”
Jonathan Brogan, who worked with DeTroy at the Portland law firm Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, said Peter hired him in 1984, and their first conversation wandered into a discussion about Chilean politics.
“He was so curious about everything, and he was an incredibly fast learner,” Brogan said. “He was my mentor. He was a great lawyer and a great person. It’s going to be difficult without him.”
In addition to his wife, daughter and stepdaughter, DeTroy is survived by his mother, Christine Meiners DeTroy; two sons, Adam and Victor; two stepsons, Ryan Zoidis and Max Aranson; five brothers and one sister; and one grandchild.
A celebration of DeTroy’s life will be held at 12 p.m.on Friday, June 3 at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.
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. Rte. 1, Cumberland.