The Senate confirmed by voice vote last week the nomination of Justice aide Kenneth W. Starr as a federal appeals court judge for the D.C. Circuit. Starr, 37, was found "qualified" by the ABA's judicial evaluation committee. The four rankings used are: extremely well qualified, well qualified, qualified and unqualified.

Arnold & Porter partner Brooksley Born, former head of the 14-member committee, said a "substantial majority" found Starr qualified.

No word yet on when the White House will send up the expected nomination of Justice lawyer J. Harvie Wilkinson III, 38, for the appeals court seat on the 4th Circuit in Richmond. That was the seat Starr was slated to get until Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) raised a ruckus.

Meanwhile, it's back to the drawing board at the White House for a candidate to fill the U.S. District Court seat here vacated last January when Judge John Lewis Smith Jr. assumed senior status.

Word is that the White House choice, Baker & Hostetler partner Betty Southard Murphy, met with Ed Meese last week and turned it down. It wasn't a dramatic pay cut that bothered Murphy, a knowledgeable source said, just that she would prefer playing an active role in President Reagan's reelection campaign--something she couldn't do from the bench.

Murphy had better hope that her campaign efforts are successful if she wants another chance to wear the robes.