Starrett nominated for federal judgeship

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 8, 2004

Fourteenth District Circuit Court Judge Keith Starrett has beennominated for a federal judgeship on the U.S. U.S. District Courtbench for southern Mississippi.

President Bush submitted the nomination to the Senate Wednesdayfollowing recommendations by U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and TrentLott, both R-Miss.

“I’m very honored that the two senators chose to recommend meand that the president chose to nominate me,” said Starrett, whowas in Florida Wednesday attending a bar association meeting.

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Starrett, who has been circuit court judge for Lincoln, Pike andWalthall counties since 1992, was considered the favorite amongfour candidates who were interviewed for the federal judgeship inFebruary. If confirmed by the Senate, Starrett would succeedCharles Pickering, who received a recess appointment to the 5thCircuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans in January.

“It’s well-deserved, and I’m happy for him,” said AssistantDistrict Attorney Diane Jones about Starrett’s nomination.

The timetable for Starrett’s confirmation was unclear, as thenomination could be affected by the outcome of the Novemberpresidential election and other political factors. The processinvolves a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and then avote by the full Senate.

Area attorneys who’ve practiced before the judge said they hadno doubt Starrett would be confirmed if he receives a hearing. Ahearing could be slow in coming due to an upcoming summer recessand the election, said McComb attorney Ronnie Whittington.

“Simply getting to the confirmation hearing will be the biggeststep in the process,” Whittington said.

If confirmed, Starrett would be an asset to the federal courtbench and the southern district of Mississippi, Whittington said.He praised the judge as eminently-qualifed and hard-working.

“I think Judge Starrett is very competent and very conscientiousin fulfilling his duties,” Whittington said.

Brookhaven attorney Joe Fernald said he was proud for Starrettto receive the nomination.

“I feel it is a wonderful accomplishment and a compliment to histalents and abilities,” Fernald said.

Fernald, who had his first jury trial before Starrett, said hehad made every lawyer who practiced in front of him better. Theattorney said he believes the judge would appeal to bothRepublicans and Democrats.

Fernald cited Drug Court, a rehabilitative program for drugoffenders begun by Starrett in 1999 in the state, as one example ofthe judge’s ability and desire to help people. Also, while someplaintiffs or defendants may not have liked a trial’s outcome,Fernald said Starrett is fair to everyone involved in a case.

“I think that’s the best compliment you can give to anyone: thathe was fair,” Fernald said.