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Starrett awaiting word on federal appointment

Fourteenth District Circuit Court Judge Keith Starrett will”likely” be the White House’s nominee for a federal courtjudgeship, but the nomination has not been made officially, said aspokesman for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s office.

The aide did not confirm news reports of the nomination, but didsay that Starrett was the White House staff’s “favorite” among fourcandidates who have been interviewed for the seat on the U.S.District Court for Southern Mississippi. The seat was previouslyheld by Judge Charles Pickering, who was appointed to the 5th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals last month by President George W.Bush.

Discussions among Lincoln County Circuit Court observers haveindicated that the Starrett nomination is a “done deal.” Starrett’scourt district includes Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties.

Starrett was interviewed by White House counsel last Friday inWashington.

“That’s just the first stage,” the Cochran aide said.

The aide did not know when the staff recommendation would bemade to President Bush. She said a background check on Starrettmust be done and that could take a few weeks.

The aide said Starrett is likely to be the nominee, especiallygiven the support he has received from Cochran and fellow U.S. Sen.Trent Lott. A spokesman for Lott’s office was unavailable forcomment on the possible nomination.

Starrett was unavailable for comment Thursday morning.

Earlier this week, the judge said he was honored to beconsidered for the federal court post, which would be a lifetimeappointment.

“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.”

While putting his chances of receiving the nomination at one infour, Starrett said he expected it would be made very soon.

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

Other candidates for the federal judgeship include state AppealsCourt Judge Leslie Southwick, Jackson attorney and former HindsCounty Circuit Judge Ermea J. Russell, and Mike Randolph, anattorney from Hattiesburg.