The Honorable J. Michael Conroy, Jr., District Court for Montgomery County, who served as MSBA President during the 2005-2006 Bar year, passed away on June 17. He was 67.
In a eulogy to his friend of more than 40 years, fellow MSBA Past President Thomas D. Murphy (2010-2011) summed up Conroy in a single word that “described him better than any other: generosity.”
“Mike had an enormous capacity to give, a desire to care for and to help people, and it characterized him always,” Murphy, a partner in the Rockville firm of Murphy & Mood, P.C., said during Conroy’s memorial service, held June 21 at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda.
“Mike always had time for everyone,” says Murphy, noting that Conroy’s “great patience” and willingness to “listen to everyone” manifested in every aspect of his professional and personal lives. On the bench, he adds, Conroy was “greatly admired in speech and tone” and, though fully capable of the resolve his station demanded, possessed “a sweet spot for those who needed help” as well.
The son of a prominent attorney, Conroy graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1967, thereafter serving in the United States Army and Army Reserve from 1968-1974. After earning his J.D. and Master of Laws in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center, Conroy was admitted to the Maryland Bar in 1972.
Following a few years in private practice, Conroy joined the Maryland Office of the Public Defender for Montgomery County in 1976. Four years later, he returned to private practice, eventually becoming partner in the firm of Conroy, Ballman & Dameron in 1987. In 2004, he joined Pasternak & Fidis, P.C., as a partner. Two years later, then-Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., appointed Conroy to the bench of the District Court for Montgomery County, a post he held for the remainder of his life.
MSBA Past President Cornelius D. Helfrich (2004-2005) recalls his successor as being particularly “gracious” and “helpful,” possessing a “remarkable ability to corral diverse ideas and get everyone going in the same general direction” as well as “a wicked sense of humor.”
“Mike would open his mouth and there would be that twinkle in his eye,” says Helfrich. “I’ve lost a true friend.”
As a staunch defender of the legal profession, Conroy’s key initiatives as MSBA President included the formation of the Immediate Response Committee, designed to swiftly address “over the line” attacks on attorneys and judges by “any group that unfairly attempts to impede our efforts on behalf of our members and the public.” During his 2005 installation speech, Conroy noted that while MSBA held no objection to the “opinions that every citizen is entitled to express,” the Immediate Response Committee would “defeat” any “false statements” or “material misstatements of fact” with regard to the legal profession through the issuance of “accurate and concise facts.”
Prior to becoming MSBA President, Conroy served on the MSBA Board of Governors, and was active in the Association’s Sections on Litigation and Real Property, Planning & Zoning. He also served on the Boards of Directors of both the Maryland Bar Foundation and the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland.
Long an active member of his local bar, Conroy served as 2004-2005 President of the Bar Association of Montgomery County (BAMC). He was also a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates from 2001 until this year.
A two-time recipient of the BAMC President’s Citation for Outstanding Service to the Bar, Conroy received numerous honors for his bar activity, including the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association’s Commitment to Diversity Award in 1996 and The Daily Record’s Leadership in Law Award in 2005.
Conroy’s community service was also extensive, including service as president of the Catholic Youth Organization of Metropolitan Washington, the Little Flower Church Parish Council, and the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. Conroy also served as 2004-2005 president of Congressional Country Club, of which he was a third-generation member.
In his eulogy, Murphy noted that, as an organ donor, Conroy’s “last act turned out to be his most generous one,” ensuring that “his own family’s loss would prevent someone else’s” by saving the lives of individuals in North Carolina, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C.
“He cared about people,” says Murphy. “Once he made a friend, he kept that friend forever.”