Frank D. Murnaghn Jr., nominated Tuesday to a federal judgeship by President Carter, was recommended by a Judicial Nominating Commission appointed by the president rather than by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) as reported in yesterday's editions.

Francis D. Murnaghan Jr., a prominent Baltimore lawyer and close friend of Senator Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), was nominated by President Carter yesterday to fill a vacancy on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to a White House press statement, Murnaghan, 58, was chosen from a list of five Maryland attorneys submitted to the president by Sarbanes.

Traditionally, senators from the president's party hand-pick judicial nominees and the president approves their choices. The appellate court seat is a newly created one on the circuit that covers Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and North and South Carolina.

Murnaghan, a Baltimore native and a graduate of Harvard Law School, was chairman of Sarbanes' sentorial campaign in 1976. He also was a contributor to, and honorary chairman of, Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes' election committee.

Although Sarbanes set up a Judicial Nominating Commission to advise him on both this nomination and two nominations made in January to the U.S. District Court, he has drawn some criticism for refusing to follow Carter's proposal to wholly turn the selection procedure over to nonpartisan citizen groups.

Much of that criticism subsided when Sarbanes nominated a black and a woman to the previously all-male, all-white U.S. District court in Baltimore in January.

In Virginia a nominating committee submitted the names of 10 white males to Sen. Harry F. Byrd Jr. (I-Va.) to fill four new judgeships. Carter, who has stated that he wants to see more blacks and women appointed to federal judgeships threatened to leave the judgeships vacant if the list was not expanded.

Sarbanes' recommendation of a black and a woman to the Baltimore openings apparently cleared the way for his recommendation of his old friend, Murnaghan.

Murnaghan, who called becoming a judge the "pinnacle of any lawyer's career," was general counsel to the U.S. High Commissioner in Germany from 1950-52, Maryland assistant attorney general from 1952-54 and currently is a member of Baltimore's largest law firm.