Seidlin to the Sidelines– Finally!

I’m happy the Anna Nicole Smith hearings are finally over for a number of reasons, but none ranks higher than the cessation of Judge Larry Seidlin’s meandering, self-important soliloquies that made the proceedings laughable and infuriating and surreal (the money-grubbing parties and outlandish antics of the tabloid media corps camped out at Broward’s courthouse also contributed mightily, of course– but I digress).

I’ve covered south Florida courts for better than a quarter-century, but had not come in contact with Judge Seidlin before last week. Almost immediately, I was put off by his attempts to place himself at the center of the proceedings. He’d cut off lawyers in mid-sentence, not to move the proceedings along, but to launch into personal reminiscences of his days at Hunter College, his background as a New York cabbie, his six-year-old, his exercise regimen– no aspect of this man’s life was too trivial for him to mention, before a nationwide TV audience. After sitting in Seidlin’s chambers for most of the morning, I finally bailed out, afraid that my sighs of impatience with this unbridled display of ego would become too noticeable.

I’m not against judges displaying a little personality from the bench. Morning calendars with Judge Michael Genden were a very great way to start the day. Judge Stan Blake has often displayed a keen wit in high-profile trials. Judge David Young’s patter has earned him a TV show– he’ll soon leave the Miami-Dade Circuit bench for the light duty and heavy paycheck available in televised jurisprudence.

But those judges kept personal asides and jokes brief, and usually in service of a point. Judge Seidlin just likes to hear himself talk.

My nerves are not the only ones grated by the bombastic Broward jurist. A long-time south Florida prosecutor told me that she had the misfortune to be sick on Wednesday, and tuned into Anna-Nicola-Palooza. She recounted literally throwing things at the TV, yelling at the judge to be quiet.

Keith Olbermann highlighted Seidlin as his top story on his MSNBC “Countdown” show, stringing together about three minutes worth of the judge’s more-annoying moments in court. I couldn’t help thinking– it must have been a tough job, paring down the annoying moments for air. Over on CNN, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called Seidlin “Judge Judy’s wacky little brother”.

Which brings up the report on that Judge Seidlin has shopped around an audition tape, in search of a televised court-show gig. I don’t know whether it’s true. I do know there are plenty of self-important gasbags on TV (yes, I know I’m asking for it, given what I do for a living). If the Judge was treating this case as an audition, it failed with most folks.’s on-line poll on whether “Judge Larry” would be good on TV results in a 52-48% “No” vote.

None of this is to say– Judge Seidlin might not have worked out a good result, in the end. After all, the trio who’ve been warring over Anna Nicole’s remains and child (and, needless to say, her considerable fortune) actually walked out of the courthouse arm-in-arm, proclaiming their satisfaction.

But even his ruling was announced in a bizarre, self-indulgent manner. After saying all week he’d rule on Friday, he startled the parties Thursday afternoon by saying a ruling was imminent– “I’m going to end this, in a few minutes”. Then he spent 15 minutes yakking, telling us that the negative public images of the principals weren’t deserved. I wondered, since he’d declared often he wasn’t reading or watching coverage of the case, just how he knew about the negative public images he was trying to debunk.

After that penultimate heaping helping of pointless palaver, the judge then said he’d need about 15 minutes to mull the case over before delivering his opinion.

He came back with a lengthy written ruling that had to have been prepared well before the day’s testimony was over. He announced his ruling, snuffling and choking back tears. I don’t pretend to know whether his emotion was genuine. I do think that the judge’s love of the limelight is the main reason cynics are suggesting he was playing to the cameras.

His ruling? He was going to leave the decision about disposition of Anna Nicole’s body to the lawyer he’d appointed to represent her daughter. But wait– moments later it was clear the judge wasn’t really ceding authority to Guardian Ad Litem Richard Milstein– “I want her to be buried with her son in the Bahamas. I want them to be together”, was the judge’s coda.

I would hope that the last two weeks have made it clear, Larry Seidlin’s 15 minutes of TV fame should be over, for good. I have little confidence that that will happen. TV programmers have given us Maury Povich and Jerry Springer. Even Kato Kaelin got a brief entertainment career out of being a dim-witted witness in the OJ trial. So is there really any doubt that someday soon Judge Larry Seidlin will get a court TV show or a book deal, or at least a chance to sit down and talk EXCLUSIVELY to “Access/Entertainment/People/TMZ/Celeb Worship Tonight” about the Anna Nicole case and his philosophy of life?

Oh, wait– he said, in rendering his decision, it was the last time he’d talk about the case. Wanna bet?


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