District judge serving in gulf

November 05, 1990|By Glenn Small | Glenn Small,Evening Sun Staff

Among the questions on tomorrow's ballot will be one asking whether legislators or judges ought to be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.

For Baltimore County District Court Judge Lawrence Daniels, the question is not theoretical. He's already on active duty, serving in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf standoff.

Daniels, 43, a 17 1/2 -year Army veteran from Glenarm, was called to active duty Sept. 11. He flew out, his wife says, "combat ready."

"He went out there fully armed," said Beverly Daniels, 34. "And chemical warfare ready."

Maj. Lawrence Daniels is not on the front lines. As a commissioned officer of the Judge Advocate General's Corps, he performs, for now, duties more mundane.

He is stationed in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, working with soldiers on legal issues, such as drafting wills or untangling legal problems left behind when they shipped out. He is also involved in contracting with Saudis to purchase supplies for the Army.

His wife says she has spoken with her husband once a week by telephone, and they write every day. He has also recorded messages on cassette tapes and mailed them back.

When they talk on the telephone, they don't discuss his Army work in very much detail, Beverly Daniels said.

"I don't know how much is classified, but he's not sure what he's supposed to reveal or not, so he tends to err on the side of caution," she said.

But she is certain that he will vote by absentee ballot, because one of his duties is to encourage soldiers to vote. He distributes the absentee ballots, she said.

A ballot question in Maryland seeks to revise an "anachronistic" provision of the state constitution that prohibits legislators, judges and other public officials from holding more than one public office, said Robert A. Zarnoch, chief counsel for the General Assembly.

Although no one has complained about legislators, judges or state's attorneys serving in the reserves or the National Guard, Zarnoch said, the General Assembly decided to look into the issue this year, at the request of the courts.

"You can't discriminate against reservists or guardsmen today," said Zarnoch, citing a 1974 federal law that protects soldiers from discrimination.

In fact, said Zarnoch, should voters say they don't want judges or legislators to serve in the military, the attorney general's office probably would issue an opinion saying Maryland must follow federal law.

In any event, Daniels is due back stateside in early December, unless his tour is extended.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore County District Court makes do without him, using fill-in retired judges and shifting judges from other jurisdictions, said Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney of the District Court of Maryland.

Over in the desert, Daniels lives in a dormitory-style housing compound that, while not luxurious, does have running water, showers and air conditioning, Beverly Daniels said. He eats at the Army mess tent, and has ventured out into the Saudi population for some meals.

Once he was lost for two hours, having only a map in Arabic. But Daniels was not too worried, his wife says.

"He found a Baskin-Robbins," she said. "But he said he's disappointed that they don't have Rocky Road" ice cream.

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