A mission to advocate for children: Honoring the legacy of Judge who launched first CASA program

Honorable Judge David Soukup, a Seattle-area juvenile court judge, died December 2023, according to National CASA/GAL Association, media report  

The Honorable Judge David Soukup, who developed the first ever CASA program, died in December 2023 at 90-years-old, according to the National CASA/GAL Association for Children and a report from the Seattle Times. 

A long-serving judicial leader, the impetus for the first Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program presented itself to the Seattle-area juvenile court judge in 1976

“It terrified me to make decisions about kids when I didn’t have anybody there that was only advocating for the child,” said Judge Soukup in a 2018 interview with the National CASA/GAL Association for Children. 

In one case, Judge Soukup shared he felt he had insufficient information to make a life-changing decision for a 3-year-old girl who had suffered from child abuse. 

“I had to make a decision at some point about whether to take a three-year-old child out of the only home she had ever known and put her with strangers. How would that affect her? And if I returned her home, was she really in danger? I looked around the courtroom and there was really no one there who could only speak up for that child,” he said in that same interview. 

That launched the idea: find volunteers, provide them with training and have them speak up for children in the courtroom.  

Judge David W. Soukup, photo from the National CASA/GAL Association for Children
Judge David W. Soukup, photo from the National CASA/GAL Association for Children

Since, approximately 1,000 CASA programs have been launched across the United States.  

In Ohio, the first CASA program was established in Lucas County in 1980. Now, there are 47 CASA programs serving children in 60 Ohio counties. 

“Judge Soukup’s legacy is positive and impactful. His work has given children across the country experiencing abuse and neglect access to trained CASA volunteers, and by extension, a voice,” said Ohio CASA Executive Director Doug Stephens.  

The National CASA/GAL Association shares in this post that “Our deepest sympathies go out to Judge Soukup’s family and all who were fortunate to cross paths with him in life.”

If you would like to learn more about the history of CASA and how you can make an impact, check out the Ohio CASA Mission