Michael G. Rinn

Michael G. Rinn, a Cockeysville bankruptcy attorney and longtime Civil War enthusiast who played a pivotal role in the preservation of a historic Western Maryland battlefield, died Saturday of lung cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson.

The Hunt Valley resident was 61.


"Aside from other talents and capabilities, Michael was a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee par excellence; a position he held with distinction for over 25 years," said Zvi Guttman, a Baltimore bankruptcy trustee and longtime friend.

"His incisive questions and sixth sense about people let him quickly decide where to focus his energies and efforts. Beware to those who were deceptive," he said.


"Nevertheless, his gruff exterior hid a genuinely kind and caring individual. Michael was a remarkable colleague, an extraordinary mentor and an irreplaceable friend," said Mr. Guttman. "He loved every minute of what he did."

The son of a physician and social worker, Michael Gerard Rinn was born in Baltimore and raised in Towson. He attended Mount Washington Country School for Boys and graduated in 1969 from Calvert Hall College High School.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1973 from what is now Loyola University Maryland, Mr. Rinn earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore in 1973.

Mr. Rinn worked for several law firms before establishing Michael G. Rinn Law Offices on Warren Road in Cockeysville in 1983.

As a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee, Mr. Rinn's role was finding assets and liquidating or distributing them to creditors on behalf of the debtor.

Mr. Guttman said there are a variety of circumstances that force people to file bankruptcy petitions.

"If you were honest with him, then you were all right," said Mr. Guttman. "If you were straight, then he was straight. But if you were not, he came at you."

Paul Sweeney, a partner in the Annapolis law firm of Yumkas Vidmar Sweeney LLC, is another longtime colleague and friend.


"When I was a young attorney, our paths crossed, and for the last 20 years we have worked on cases together," said Mr. Sweeney.

"He could be very tough with those who were dishonest and compassionate with those who had arrived at bankruptcy for any number of reasons such as medical debt," said Mr. Sweeney. "He was highly intelligent, very impressive ethically, yet had lots of compassion. He was a role model."

Mr. Sweeney said that Mr. Rinn understood hardships faced by debtors and wanted to "help them get the case closed and move on to a new life" but had no tolerance for those he found were hiding assets and deliberately trying to deceive him.

"He had a great knack for finding hidden assets that were due creditors," he said. "But he always took a fair and compassionate approach."

Louise F. Keelty, a real estate lawyer, shared office space with Mr. Rinn for nearly 30 years.

"Michael was a wonderful human being, and even though we didn't agree at all politically, we respected each other's views. It was a perfect arrangement," said Ms. Keelty. "He was well thought of at the bankruptcy bar and was simply just a very decent human being."


Mr. Rinn was an enthusiastic lifelong student of the Civil War who enjoyed giving highly detailed tours of battlefields and other sites associated with the war to local judges and attorneys.

In the late 1980s, Mr. Rinn learned that land associated with the Battle of South Mountain was about to be turned into a subdivision. In the battle fought on Sept. 14, 1862, 6,000 solders were killed, wounded or reported missing; it presaged the even greater battle at Antietam that came three days later,

It was also significant because it was the first major battle of the Civil War fought on Maryland soil.

"In 1989, we formed the Central Maryland Heritage League, a nonprofit land trust, for the preservation of South Mountain, and Michael volunteered legal help so we were able to buy several parcels of land including Wise's Field, which was a key part of where the ... battle was fought," said George F. Bringham Jr., a Middletown carpenter who was president of the organization.

"We were flabbergasted that an attorney from Baltimore wanted to help us," said Mr. Bringham. "He'd drive an hour and a half after finishing work — he wouldn't even go home — and then at 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., he'd drive back home. Not only did he do free legal help, he also made contributions."

The group's efforts resulted in the establishment of South Mountain State Park.


"Without his help, it would not have become a state battlefield. He helped bring awareness to what we were trying to do," said Mr. Bringham. "He was the kind of person who'd give the shirt off his back to help someone out."

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Mr. Bringham also pointed out that Mr. Rinn's birthday on Sept. 14 was the same day of the Battle of South Mountain.

In his walks across battlefields, Mr. Rinn picked up bullets that had laid undisturbed, even after the passage of nearly 150 years.

"He had cases and cases of them which he displayed," said his wife of 36 years, the former Jacqueline "Jackie" Denhard. "He had other Civil War artifacts and an extensive library on the war."

In addition to reading, Mr. Rinn enjoyed traveling and went to Ireland to celebrate both his 60th birthday and his Irish heritage, where he "danced every dance with his wife," said family members.

Mr. Rinn was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 103 Church Lane, Cockeysville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at noon Wednesday.


In addition to his wife, Mr. Rinn is survived by a son, Christopher M. Rinn of Cockeysville; a daughter, Megan C. Fitez of Sparks; three sisters, Mary Beth Smolev of Baltimore, Trish Rinn of Easton, and Margaret Dietz of Pittsburgh; and a granddaughter.