Maryland apparently has one moral standard for licensing morticians and another for licensing real estate brokers.

While one licensing board has rejected an application by former Rep. Charles C. Diggs Jr. (D-Mich.) for an apprentice mortician's license because of his federal conviction, another did a turnabout Thursday and permitted the also-convicted former state Del. W. Dale Hess (D-Harford) to keep his real estate broker's license.

In its ruling Thursday, the Maryland Real Estate Commission reversed two adverse previous decisions against Hess and said he had "paid the price for his offense . . . and is now entitled to begin anew his career and occupation."

Assistant Attorney General Joseph Acton had argued against approval, saying Hess' crimes -- mail fraud and racketeering -- involved moral turpitude.

Hess, a former majority leader of the House of Delegates, was one of five men convicted in 1977 along with former Gov. Marvin Mandel. Under Maryland law, state boards may deny or revoke licenses for such convictions.

Hess' lawyer, Joseph C. Jacob, pointed out that one codefendant, Ernest N. Cory Jr., was granted a real estate license while on probation for his sentence. Another, Harry W. Rodgers, is currently seeking permission to sell real estate in Ocean City.

Diggs, until recently a licensed mortician in his native Michigan, was denied an apprentice license Dec. 9 by the Maryland Board of Morticians on its findings that his convictions for mail fraud and falsification of congressional payroll vouchers were crimes of moral turpitude. He had resigned his congressional seat after the conviction.

Diggs' lawyer, Clarence Mitchell Jr., has requested a hearing on the turndown. Mitchell could not be reached for comment yesterday. TT his item is reminiscent of that T cynical Vietnam War saying about destroying a village in order to save it. It's about cutting down trees to make way for a park.

William Pease, an assistant U.S. attorney, was one of numerous people who arrived at the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Washington a few days ago and were outraged to find workmen chain-sawing numerous mature trees -- by one count, 17 -- on a vacant lot on the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and John Marshall Place NW.

Pease said he asked why they were cutting down "those gorgeous old trees," and was told it was to make way for John Marshall Park. "They tell us to cut down trees, we cut down trees," he quoted one workman as saying.

"We knew that question was going to come up," said a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp., which is building the park. The trees had to go, the board of the federally sponsored agency decided, to provide a clear vista of the old Washington City Hall, now the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, on Indiana Avenue to the north. She said the 17 mature trees will be replaced with 116 new ones.