Judge Starrett in running for federal post

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Following a Friday interview with White House counsel, JudgeKeith Starrett is a step closer to a possible nomination for a seaton the federal court bench.

Starrett is one of four candidates being considered to replaceJudge Charles Pickering on the U.S. District Court for the SouthernDistrict of Mississippi. Since 1992, Starrett has been judge of the14th Circuit Court District, which includes Lincoln, Pike andWalthall counties.

“It was a huge honor just to get to go for an interview,”Starrett said Monday. “It’s going to be very interesting to seewhat happens.”

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The U.S. District Court vacancy was created last month whenPresident George Bush gave Pickering a recess appointment to the5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The appointment, whichcan last until the end of January 2005, followed two years of theSenate blocking the confirmation due to Democrat concerns aboutPickering’s civil rights record.

Regarding his possible federal judgeship, which would be alifetime appointment, Starrett said he expected the nomination tobe made very soon.

“The confirmation process will take, probably, six to eightmonth,” Starrett said.

Other candidates include state Appeals Court Judge LeslieSouthwick, Jackson attorney and former Hinds County Circuit JudgeErmea J. Russell, and Mike Randolph, an attorney from Hattiesburg.The White House can accept one of the four or conduct its ownnominee search.

Starrett said he had known Southwick since 1980 when they workedon the senior George Bush’s campaign. He added that he was a lawschool classmate with Randolph, and that he has a lot of respectfor Russell.

His interview in Washington lasted about 30 minutes, Starrettsaid. A big part of it, he said, involved interpretation of theConstitution and what legal sources he would use in decidingcases.

“I was very impressed with the quality of the people, from thereceptionist on up to the attorneys in the West Wing,” Starrettsaid. “They are personable, competent people.”

A plus for Starrett is his efforts to start the state’s firstdrug court in 1999. Several other districts have begun drug courts,which target non-violent offenders by placing them under strictsupervision and testing guidelines instead of incarceration.

“It’s a great calling to serve as a judge, whether on the stateor federal level,” Starrett said. “I really want to do God’s willin my life, wherever that is.”