HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Behind the walls of the Federal Courthouse Building in Hattiesburg, the Honorable Keith Starrett, United States District Judge, looked back at his judicial career spanning 27 years.
“George Washington said, ‘The most important pillar of any democracy is its system of justice,’” Starrett said.
Following more than 10 years of private practice, Starrett was appointed to a seat on the 14th Circuit Court District in 1992 by former Governor Kirk Fordice. In 2005, he was appointed to serve on the federal bench.
“All of my legal career and the first part of my judicial career was in Pike County and that area," Starrett said. "I am from Magnolia, grew up in Magnolia. In 2005 I came to Hattiesburg on the federal bench and have thoroughly enjoyed my move. It’s a great town, people are nice and friendly. A lot of positives in Hattiesburg. People don’t appreciate Hattiesburg as much as they should.”
After years of accomplishments, including his role of starting the state’s first felony-level drug court and beginning one of the first re-entry courts in the country, Judge Starrett is now shifting his role to senior status.
“I’m getting older and senior status allows you to slow down some and take a reduced case load once the new judge is in place," Starrett said. "But, it takes at least a year to get a new judge through the confirmation process.”
In this informal sitdown, Starrett talked about his strong stance behind justice system reform.
“I’ve enjoyed almost all of my work," Starrett said. "There are some things that are better than others, but I’ve enjoyed most of it. But, I have a special interest in criminal justice reform. As a state judge, I saw the system was not working as it should. The recidivism rate in criminal cases was just way too high. It’s too high across the country. In Mississippi I would see people that I would sentence to prison, would come back. It was literally a revolving door.”
In an effort to make a change, he hopes more resources are given to people to get out of jail, support their families and become productive tax paying citizens. While his work continues, he leaves us with this:
“The citizens should pay attention to the system of justice and insist they have a fair, and impartial justice system. Everybody should be treated the same in the justice system. That’s something we’ve had the benefit of in this nation and we do not need to let that go backwards.”
Starrett said he hopes to see a fair, objective student of the law in his successor.