June 20, 2007 in Nation/World

Judge in Smith case stepping down

Jennifer Lebovich and Wanda J. Demarzo McClatchy
 
The Spokesman-Review photo

Seidlin
(Full-size photo)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Larry Seidlin – the Broward County circuit court judge who cried on national television over Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith’s death – has resigned from the bench.

In a June 13 letter to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Seidlin said he wants to spend more time with his family and be free to pursue other opportunities.

“While those opportunities are varied, they all share in common a further commitment to helping my fellow citizens through roles in the educational system, the media and non-profit organizations,” the 57-year-old jurist wrote.

For months, rumors have swirled that Seidlin had met with television executives to talk about plans for a courtroom show.

“A Star is Born, Larry probably got the show,” wrote attorney Bill Gelin Tuesday on JAABlog.com – a controversial Web site that focuses on Broward’s judges and courts.

Seidlin declined to comment outside his chambers Tuesday.

David Bogenschutz, a close friend who has spoken on Seidlin’s behalf in the past, said Seidlin wants to spend time with his young daughter, Dax, and travel with his wife, Belinda.

If something came up “in the media, he’d at least look at it,” Bogenschutz said, “but there’s nothing that’s been signed and there’s no immediate thought that that’s what he’s going to do, but certainly his options are open.”

Seidlin said he will leave the bench on July 31.

Seidlin both outraged and ingratiated himself with viewers during the six-day probate battle over who had the right to decide where to bury Smith, who died suddenly Feb. 8 while staying at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, Fla.

Seidlin’s jovial courtroom manner made him the butt of late night jokes, inspiring two parodies on “Saturday Night Live.”

Seidlin made heads turn during the hearings when he referred to Smith’s corpse as “that baby,” declaring that her body “belongs to me now.”

He coined nicknames for at least one attorney, offered others orange juice and sandwiches and gave long soliloquies, talking about Camelot and Smith’s admiration for Marilyn Monroe.

Seidlin was teary and emotional as he ruled that 5-month-old Dannielynn, Smith’s next of kin, would have custody of her mother’s body and that the child’s court-appointed guardian would choose Smith’s final resting place in her stead.

Not everyone thought Seidlin’s behavior was comical, however. At least one complaint was filed with the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission about Seidlin’s courtroom manner during the proceedings.


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