Posted: July 26, 2005


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

About three months after welcoming Judge Richard S. Gebelein home from Afghanistan, his Superior Court colleagues are planning a send-off next month to wish him well in Bosnia.

Only this time Gebelein will not be coming back to the bench.

Afghanistan was a National Guard call-up for a tour of duty as an army colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps, and it lasted about eight months.

Bosnia is different. It is a prestigious judicial appointment through the U.S. State Department to a European Union court dealing with war crimes and organized crime in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which endured ethnic warfare in the 1990s after it emerged from the former Yugoslavia.

To go to Bosnia, Gebelein will be taking an early retirement from the court, where he has sat since 1984, going there after he was elected to a four-year term as a Republican attorney general in 1978.

"We had a robing ceremony and now a decommissioning ceremony," quipped Superior Court President Judge James T. Vaughn Jr.

Fellow judges and other well-wishers will gather on Wednesday, Aug. 10, at 4 p.m., in the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington.

A day later on Thursday, Aug. 11, Gebelein will be the featured speaker at the Wilmington Rotary Club's weekly lunchtime meeting at the Hotel du Pont on Rodney Square.

Gebelein was transformed by his service in Afghanistan. Publicly he became perhaps Delaware's best-known face of the war against terrorism through his insightful e-mails home, and personally he became committed to advancing the rule of law internationally. In sum, Afghanistan paved the way for Bosnia.

The early retirement for Gebelein, who is 59, was made possible by all three branches of state government. With the judiciary pulling for him, the General Assembly hustled before it went home for the year July 1 to approve legislation making Gebelein eligible for his judicial pension by counting his previous time working for the state. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed the bill into law.

Gebelein is expected to start his term in Bosnia on Aug. 15. It is expected to last between a year and a year and a half.

Formal farewells at the retirement ceremony are scheduled from Vaughn and Chief Justice Myron T. Steele. In addition, there are plans for a letter from U.S. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democrat who is the former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and now the ranking minority member, to be read by his son Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III.

Beau Biden, now a lawyer in Wilmington, was in Bosnia himself about four years ago on assignment when he worked for the U.S. Justice Department. Like Gebelein, he also is a JAG officer in the National Guard.

There is also plenty of speculation that Beau Biden and Gebelein could have something else in common by next year -- running for attorney general.