Vice President Mondale has made a novel judge-selection deal with Minnesota's two new Republican senators. It gives him the equal voice he has been maneuvering for in the selection of a 10-member judicial screening and search commission, in return for a Republican appointment.
Republican Sens. David Durenberger and Rudy Boschwitz, who came to power in the "Minnesota Massacre" last November, which swept the previously dominant Democratic-Farmer-Labor party from the Senate, will together name five to the merit selection panel -- and Mondale, Minnesota's leading Democrat since the death of Hubert H. Humphrey, will name the other five. Mondale will also name one of two chairmen.
The compact that sealed the deal, product of months of dickering, was framed in diplomatic language. Technically, the senators will name all the commission members while Mondale will "recommend" candidates for his share. Mondale also promised he would "recommend" to President Carter that one of the next three U.S. District Court judges be a Republican. Despite the language, Mondale's role in either case is unequivocal, a source close to the deal said.
Minnesota got two new federal judgeships in the judicial expansion bill passed in the 95th Congress and a Mondale aide hinted that under the agreement, the Republicans would get one of them, rather than having to wait for a vacancy produced by death or resignation.
Another provision that mollified the senators is that, despite Mondale's equal voice in naming the commission, seven of the 10 commission members must agree before a possible nominee can be proposed to Attorney General Griffin Bell. It is Bell who passes on any selections from the state commissions to President Carter.