Many supporters, colleagues on hand for Starrett ceremony

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2005

SUMMIT – Friends and colleagues filled the Southwest MississippiCommunity College Fine Arts Building auditorium Monday for theinvestiture of Keith Starrett as the new U.S. district judge forthe state’s southern district.

Starrett, appointed to the post last year by President Bush,became Mississippi’s 35th district judge since statehood. He saidhe was “absolutely overwhelmed” by the support he has receivedsince his appointment.

“It is an unbelievable honor and privilege to accept thechallenge and to take the position as U.S. district court judge,”said Starrett, who was Mississippi’s 14th District Circuit Courtjudge for 12 years before assuming his new duties earlier thisyear.

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Starrett expressed appreciation to the many friends, colleaguesand family members who attended Monday’s ceremony. Starrett said heis looking forward to serving as judge while upholding his oath andthe Constitution.

“Without a fair system of justice, democracy cannot stand,”Starrett said.

Retired Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Charles Pickering,who held the district court bench seat prior to Starrett, expressedconfidence in his successor’s abilities.

“Judge Starrett will be a great judge because he is a greatman,” Pickering said. “He has faith, integrity and his feet on theground. He will do a great job.”

Speakers during Monday’s formal ceremony expressed similarcomments.

U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton, who has known Starrett since theyplayed Little League baseball together, praised the new judge forhis tremendous work ethic, compassion and knowledge of the law.

“He will do everything he can to be fair. He does not have anagenda,” Lampton said.

Lampton also used a baseball analogy to describe Starrett’ssound rulings. Of 85 cases that have been appealed to the stateCourt of Appeals or state Supreme Court, Lampton said almost 90percent had been affirmed.

“That is a tremendous, tremendous batting average,” Lamptonsaid.

U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Trent Lott recommended Starrett’sappointment to President Bush.

Cochran touted Starrett’s 18 years in private practice as anattorney and his 12 years as judge. He said Starrett would continuehis tradition of distinguished service on the federal bench.

“Keith Starrett deserves the honor of serving on hisdistinguished and highly-regarded district court,” Cochransaid.

Lott hailed Starrett as a outstanding leader in his church,community and profession. Both senators cited Starrett’s foundingthe state’s first felony level drug court to help rehabilitate drugoffenders.

“He has done what you want a leader in the community to do,”Lott said.

Lott said citizens can rest assured that Starrett will provideequal justice for all who come before his court.

“He will do a wonderful job for the people he serves,” Lottsaid.

U.S. District Chief Judge Henry Wingate, who presided atMonday’s ceremony, recalled a recent incident when a potentialjuror volunteered that he knew Starrett. Of Starrett, the personsaid there “is no finer man in Mississippi,” Wingate said.

“I was so impressed with that testimony on Judge Starrett,” saidWingate, who later called the new judge a “true star” in thejudicial constellation.