The Waldo Judicial Center in Belfast Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The midcoast legal community and others are mourning the sudden loss of a Camden lawyer who died last week while participating in a Waldo County civil case hearing held over Zoom.

Roger Hurley, 74, collapsed and died Friday.

Justice Daniel Billings, who was presiding over the Zoom hearing when it happened, said Hurley was an important part of the midcoast law community and that his death was shocking.

“Having a lawyer collapse in the middle of a hearing is not something anyone expects to happen and was the most shocking experience that I have ever had in court,” Billings said. “He will be missed not only by his family, but by his clients and those of us who worked with him in the courts … I always enjoyed our interactions and my thoughts are with his family.”  

Midcoast lawyers this week remembered Hurley as a friendly person who was quick to share a quip or story and who seemed to genuinely enjoy the practice of law.

He was originally from Ohio, where he graduated from law school and began practicing law in 1974. Hurley was admitted to the Maine bar in 2011 and worked here as a lawyer in general practice. He took on various cases, including criminal defense. One of his recent higher-profile clients was Richard J. Ellis, a Camden man accused of kidnapping a woman in October 2021 and holding her hostage for more than a week.

Chris MacLean, who also practices law in Camden, said that Hurley worked hard to represent his clients.

“He seemed very interested in fighting hard for his clients, but was also easy to deal with on a personal level between lawyers,” MacLean said. “As zealously as he might fight for his clients, he never let that carry over into the realm of relationships with the other lawyers he dealt with, in my experience.”

He last spoke with Hurley about a week before his death.

“He was always a very collegial guy,” MacLean said. “[He had] an old-school model that I appreciated, and follow in my own practice.”

The news that a fellow lawyer had collapsed and died in the middle of a hearing was hard to hear, he said. Although it wasn’t immediately clear why Hurley had collapsed, MacLean wondered if the stress of the profession might have played a role.

“There’s so much stress with the practice of law, especially the litigation work that we do,” MacLean said. “I do think that there’s a physical toll that we experience.”

To him, stress in the legal profession has increased of late, and he knows of at least two Maine lawyers who have left the profession altogether because of this.

“I just think there’s something going on. I think things are more stressful. I can’t quite put my finger on it,” MacLean said. “I just worry that that contributed to what happened to Roger. It could happen with other lawyers.”