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Nationally-recognized NC judge could be unseated thanks to double-bunking

Judge J.H. Corpening

A judge who would be double-bunked in all three of the most recent judicial redistricting proposals received national recognition for his work earlier this month.

Judge J.H. Corpening, who sits on the bench in New Hanover County, received the David W. Soukup Judge of the Year Award at the National Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) national conference in Boston, according to the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts.

Corpening was honored for his longstanding work in juvenile court, his support and belief in the work of guardian ad litem volunteers and his innovations, including a program to reunite babies born to drug-addicted mothers.

“I’m incredibly honored and humbled by this award,” Corpening said. “It is the highest honor I’ve received in my professional career. 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.”

Judges appoint CASA/Guardian ad Litem volunteers to represent the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

Corpening has been a champion of North Carolina’s Guardian ad Litem program since 1983, and he is currently the sole juvenile court judge in New Hanover County. He also attends and speaks at nearly all trainings and events for Guardian ad Litems in that 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 about the award.

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin also praised Corpening for his work, noting that the award was well-deserved and that they were fortunate to have such a champion for children.

Despite his work and the national acclaim, Corpening could face losing his seat on the bench in 2020 if lawmakers approve any of their most recent judicial redistricting maps.

There are currently five district court judges in New Hanover County but only three seats available under Options A, B and C of the new maps, which were unveiled in February and are expected to be discussed in April.

One of the five judges’ terms ends this year, but the other four, including Corpening, end in 2020, and they would have to vie for only two available seats in the 2020 election if the General Assembly passes one of the proposed maps.

The next joint House and Senate committee on judicial reform and redistricting is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 11 in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. It is open to the public.

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