James Patrick Celebrezze
b. 1938
d. February 10, 2021
138th Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio
1983 to 1985


James Patrick Celebrezze joined the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1983, providing the state’s highest judiciary with its first sibling pairing. He joined his older brother, Frank D. Celebrezze, who was the Chief Justice at that time.

Celebrezze was born in 1938 in Cleveland to Frank and Mary Delsander Celebrezze. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University in 1960. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Army, serving for two years. After leaving the service, he taught in the Cleveland school district from 1962 to 1968.

In 1964, Celebrezze was elected to his first public office, that of state representative in the 4th District, a position he retained until 1974. During this time, he attended Cleveland-Marshall Law School and obtained his law degree in 1967.

In between stints of public service, he was an attorney at law from 1967 to 1991. From 1975 to 1978, he served as the Brook Park city law director. He joined the Navy Reserves in 1970, serving as a military judge in the Judge Advocate General Corps until 1994. In 1979, Celebrezze was elected to the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations division and, in 1980 he was elected to the 8th District Court of Appeals.

Celebrezze entered the race for the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1982 and defeated incumbent Blanche Krupansky’s bid to complete an unexpired term.

Possibly the most significant decision of his Supreme Court career involved a workers’ compensation opinion, in which Celebrezze, writing for the 6 –1 majority, held that a person who is gradually injured by a continually repeated job task, such as heavy lifting, can become disabled and receive job injury payments (Village v. General Motors Corp., 1984. This decision erased the “sudden mishap” rule that was used to determine when a person injured on the job was entitled to compensation.

In the next election, Craig Wright defeated Celebrezze in a highly politicized campaign, in which the Republicans claimed the Court was unbalanced with three of the seven Justices from the Cleveland area, two of whom shared the same father.

In 1985, Celebrezze sued Dayton Newspapers Inc. and cartoonist Milton D. Priggee, for $12 million in response to a negative editorial cartoon appearing in the Dayton Journal Herald in August 1985. He claimed the image showed him to be “a ruthless gangster, an underworld figure who engaged in illegal acts of murder, mayhem and criminal conduct.” That same year, he sued Miami County Republican Committee, its party chairman, Robert Netzley, and The Plain Dealer for derogatory campaign fliers distributed during the election campaign. Netzley’s insurance company settled out of court for $100,000.

In 1991, Celebrezze returned to elected office as Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court judge. He retired in January 2009.

Celebrezze married Daria R. Yurkiw in 1967. They have three children: James Patrick Celebrezze Jr., Leslie Ann Rose Celebrezze and Nicholas John Celebrezze.