Former Warren County judge Ruppert, ‘an attorney’s attorney,’ dies at 85

Retired Franklin Municipal Judge James D. Ruppert. FILE PHOTO
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Retired Franklin Municipal Judge James D. Ruppert. FILE PHOTO

Former Judge James D. Ruppert died Thursday at Kettering Hospital.

He was 85.

His younger brother, retired Judge Rupert E. Ruppert, who succeeded him on the Franklin Municipal Court bench, said his older brother was “a terrific attorney” and had been ill for the past several years, with the last three years being very bad before he succumbed to Parkinson’s disease.

James Ruppert was born in Franklin and was one of 10 children. He graduated at the top of his class at Franklin High School. After attending the University of Cincinnati for two years, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he thrived and became a leader in the Corps of Cadets.

Rupert Ruppert, who followed his brother as Franklin Municipal Court judge and served for 12 years, recalls attending his older brother’s 1960 graduation at West Point.

“I’ll never forget going to West Point for his graduation with mom and dad and sister, Janet. It was a glorious day. The entire Corps of 2,400 cadets marched onto the field and who was the first person out, leading the Corps? It was Jim. He was a born leader,” Rupert Ruppert said.

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James Ruppert served in the 101st Airborne Division and completed Ranger School. He served as an intelligence officer during the U.S.- Russian Missile Crisis in 1962, and was sent to Florida with the Invasion Force, according to Rupert Ruppert. As a first lieutenant, he was chosen to fly over in a reconnaissance jet to study Cuban and Russian troop deployments, and prepare a report and also briefed commanders.

After his obligated military service, James Ruppert attended UC Law School, where he was editor of the Law Review. After law school, James Ruppert practiced law with his father-in-law and Franklin Municipal Judge J.T. Riley.

James Ruppert was elected Warren County Prosecutor and served one-term before running for U.S Congress twice. In both races in a heavily Republican district, he lost by less than 1% each time. He was later elected Franklin Municipal Court judge and served for 20 years in the part-time position while maintaining a private law practice.

During his legal career, James Ruppert was recognized as one of the best trial attorneys in the state and his knowledge of case law was second to none, his brother said. He won a number of multi-million dollar trials and won many high profile criminal cases. Rupert Ruppert said his older brother is also believed to be the only attorney in the history of Warren County to have argued a criminal case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.

Rupert Ruppert said his favorite memory of his brother was his kindness. “He truly cared about people and was known to have helped support people in financial difficulty whether he knew them or not.”

He said James Ruppert treated everyone with dignity, respect and kindness. James Ruppert was the father of two sons, Todd and JD, his namesake who passed; and three grandchildren.

Franklin Municipal Judge Ron Ruppert, the nephew of James and Rupert Ruppert, said it was hard to describe his uncle’s life in a few words. He recalled at a Warren County Bar Association Legacy dinner where he spoke about the importance of being of service to others and had lived a life of service to his country, community, the public and his family.

Ron Ruppert said his uncle enjoyed life, meeting and being with people, and loved art and art work. He also said his uncle was active in helping Democratic candidates in statewide races wasn’t unusual for people like the late Sen. John Glenn and others to be visiting James and Rupert Ruppert.

“He felt it was an honor to serve people and that service was a way of life,” Ron Ruppert said. “He was known as ‘an attorney’s attorney’ and was devoted to the practice of law. He could always find a unique angle and always had a different view in approaching cases. He will be missed.”

Steve Runge met James Ruppert in 1975 when he became the Franklin city prosecutor.

“I truly, truly loved and enjoyed Jim,” Runge said. “James Ruppert was a gentleman from the get-go.”

Runge said James Ruppert, “was a great teacher of young attorney. He understood them and the law and was very good at that. His passing will be a great loss to the community. He stood out as one of the brightest stars Franklin ever had.”

A memorial service honoring his life will be held 1 p.m. Friday at the Anderson Funeral Home, 40 N. Main St., Springboro. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. Friday for friends and family. Memorial contributions may be made to the Downs Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, 4623 Wesley Ave, Cincinnati 45212.