Starrett confirmed to federal bench

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 22, 2004

Judge Keith Starrett and other Lincoln County court officialsviewed his confirmation to the U.S. Southern District Court with amixture of happiness and sorrow.

“It’s exciting to think about the challenges and the newopportunities that working on the federal bench has,” Starrett saidtoday as he arrived at the government complex for Drug Court. “It’salso bittersweet because I’ve developed so many friendships andhave worked with so many good people around here.”

Starrett was confirmed late Saturday to replace Judge CharlesPickering, who was named to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appealsearlier this year, on the federal district court. He has beencircuit court judge for Lincoln, Pike and Walthall counties since1992.

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“I think it’s a great opportunity for him,” said Helen Funk, whohas been a court bailiff since before Starrett was appointed to thecircuit court bench. “I think he’ll do a good job, but we’re goingto miss him here.”

Defense attorney Gus Sermos voiced similar sentiments.

“I think he’ll be an outstanding federal judge, and we’ll misshim around here,” Sermos said.

While his direct dealings with Starrett have been limited,Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop praised the judge’s fairness andhonesty.

“He’s the kind of guy we need on the federal bench,” Bishopsaid. “He is fair. He knows the law. And when you’re finishedtalking with him, you know you’ve been talking with an honestman.”

Starrett expressed appreciation to U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran andTrent Lott for their support and to President Bush for thenomination, which was made in July. Lott praised the Senate for theunanimous decision.

”Judge Keith Starrett is an outstanding jurist who will make anexcellent addition to the Southern District Court forMississippi,” said Lott, R-Miss. ”I was pleased that mycolleagues acted unanimously to approve this nomination.”

Starrett expected his work on the federal bench will be similarto what he has done in the circuit court district. He was hopefulthat Drug Court, a program he pioneered in the state several yearsago, will continue.

“I’m very interested in Drug Court continuing,” Starrett said.”That’s something I’m concerned about and want to see happen.”

Starrett said his move could come within a month to sixweeks.

In the interim, Gov. Haley Barbour will appoint someone to fillin for Starrett on the 14th Circuit Court District, which won’thave another judicial election until 2006.

Starrett said he was hopeful for a smooth transition. He said anew judge will bring new ideas and new opportunities to circuitcourt.

“The 14th District can look forward to that,” Starrett said.

Starrett was unsure when he would hear his first federal case.The judge said he would continue with his current duties until heformally resigns.

“I’m going to finish all I can,” Starrett said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.