SPELLACY, HON. LEO M. (5 Nov. 1934 - 28 May 2021) was the longest-presiding judge in the history of Cuyahoga County and was very active in service initiatives throughout his lifetime. He was the fourth of five children born to William Spellacy and Margaret Kelly.
Growing up in the Cleveland area, Spellacy attended SAINT IGNATIUS HIGH SCHOOL, graduating in 1952. He then went on to join the 1956 class of Georgetown University in Washington, DC. In 1959, he graduated from the CASE WESTERN RESERVE School of Law and passed the Bar Exam, fulfilling his long-time goal of becoming a lawyer.
Soon after completing his education, Spellacy served as an assistant to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor John T. Corrigan. As a member of Corrigan’s prosecution team, he was an active participant in SAM SHEPPARD’s second murder trial in 1966, which reversed Sheppard’s earlier conviction, in 1954, for murdering his wife.
After serving more than eight years in the County Prosecutor’s Office, Spellacy was elected to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in 1968. In serving on the bench, he was following in the footsteps of his sister, Margaret Spellacy, who was elected to the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court when he was a student in law school. In 1975, Leo Spellacy was named the Presiding Judge of the Common Pleas Court and held the position until 1990. His fifteen years as presiding judge are the most that any individual has served in any Cuyahoga County Court.
After four terms in the Common Pleas Court, Spellacy was elected to the Eighth District Ohio Court of Appeals in 1990 and again in 1996. While retiring from the bench in 2001, Spellacy nevertheless worked under the direction of the Ohio Supreme Court until 2013, overseeing the Asbestos Docket, which directed cases throughout the country to the Eighth District Court.
Throughout his life, Spellacy believed in giving back to his community.. He served on the boards of ST. JOHN WEST SHORE HOSPITAL, the Greater Cleveland Hospital Association and St. Mary’s Seminary. He was the president of the Alumni Executive Council of the Saint Ignatius High School Board of Regents. He received various alumni awards, including the Cardinal Robert Bellarmine Award for excellence and service in the legal profession. The recognition name was changed to the Hon. Leo M. Spellacy ‘52 Bellarmine Award in late 2019 to honor Spellacy, who was the first individual to receive the award. In 2020, he was honored with the Irish American Archive Society’s WALKS OF LIFE AWARD, and he also won the St. Thomas More Award from the Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland in 2010 for his legal and service work.
Spellacy was married to Zita Kramer. Together they had six children: Mary Stilphen, Kevin, Megan McCuen, John, Leo Michael, and Katie Mangan. He passed away on 28 May 2021 at the age of 86 and is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery.
Daniel Brennan and David Patrick Ryan