U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett received the 2019 Chief Justice Award on Friday during the Mississippi Bar Convention in honor of his trailblazing career on the bench.  

Starrett, a former circuit judge who splits his time between McComb and Hattiesburg, is a U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Mississippi’s Eastern Division.

He announced earlier this year that he would be retiring from the bench but would still occasionally hear cases as a senior status judge without pay beginning April 30.

Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph presented the award to Starrett.

The award recognizes individuals whose actions have significantly impacted the law and the people of the State of Mississippi.

Starrett’s accomplishments include the establishment of the first drug court program in the state, criminal justice reforms and reentry programs that reduce recidivism and help former offenders become productive citizens.

In presenting the award, Randolph read from the plaque the following quote: “Your efforts have impacted thousands. Your actions have led to the restoration of countless lives and the reunification of innumerable families. You have worked tirelessly to bring reform to our courts and redemption to the lives of those who have strayed.”

Starrett began the state’s first drug court program 20 years ago when he served as a circuit judge in Pike, Lincoln and Walthall counties. Now there are 40 drug courts statewide in all 22 state circuit court districts, as well as 12 juvenile drug courts, three family drug courts and three adult misdemeanor drug courts, with nearly 4,000 people enrolled.

Starrett has also served on the board of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals for eight years, and was chairman for two years. He was selected for the Goldstein National Drug Court Hall of Fame.

After he was appointed to the federal judiciary, Starrett started one of the first federal reentry courts in the country.  

Starrett leads Federal Reentry Courts in the Southern District of Mississippi and serves as Chair of the Reentry Committee for the 5th Circuit. He has served as chairman of the Mississippi  Reentry Council since it began as an ad hoc group in December 2013.

Starrett’s 27-year judicial career began in 1992 when Gov. Kirk Fordice appointed him as Circuit Judge for the 14th Circuit Court District. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi. His chambers are in Hattiesburg.

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