The Honorable J. H. Corpening II, Chief District Court Judge for North Carolina's Judicial District 5 (New Hanover County), received national recognition on March 11 when he was presented with the David W. Soukup Judge of the Year Award at the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) conference in Boston. Judge David Soukup presented the award to Judge Corpening during the conference in the presence of nearly 1,000 attendees.
Judge Corpening received this award for his longstanding work in juvenile court, his support and belief in the work of guardian ad litem volunteers, and his innovations like the program to reunite babies born to drug-addicted mothers.
"I'm incredibly honored and humbled by this award. It is the highest honor I've received in my professional career," Corpening said. "The fact that it is given by the National CASA / Guardian ad Litem Association, and the fact that it is named for the man who created the CASA / Guardian ad Litem program 40 years ago magnifies the significance to me exponentially."
"We could not be more proud of Judge Corpening," stated Chief Justice Mark Martin. "This award is well deserved, and we are fortunate to have a champion for children that we have in Judge Corpening."
Judge Corpening is the architect of an innovative Intensive Reunification Program. When faced with deciding what was best for an infant affected by parental opioid use, Judge Corpening created an innovative plan of action. He ordered the mother to visit with her baby every day for up to six hours at the hospital, holding and bonding with her child, followed by an infusion of services with close court oversight. This ruling was a major departure from social service practices and based, in part, on the latest research by experts who work with babies and mothers during detox.
This decision was the catalyst for Judge Corpening to spearhead the design of the Intensive Reunification Program, now entering its third year. The program enables weekly counseling and intensive instruction for parents, more frequent visits between children and parents, and support within the home. While new, the program has already shown results and continues to grow.
Since 1983, Judge Corpening has been a champion of North Carolina's Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program. He began by serving first as a GAL Attorney Advocate. He is currently the sole juvenile court judge in New Hanover County.
"He has worked as a change agent and a leader at the local, state, and national level to ensure that children have safety, permanence, and a voice in the court process," CASA representatives stated in an announcement.
Judge Corpening attends and speaks at nearly all trainings and events for the GAL volunteers in New Hanover County.
The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Program is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2018. Celebratory events are being held in various regions throughout the state this year to mark this major milestone.
About the Award
Each year, the National CASA Association honors the outstanding contributions of a judge who has advanced the best interest of children through support of the CASA / GAL model. This year, the award has been renamed in honor of CASA founder, Judge David. W. Soukup.