What is there left to say about Judge Larry Seidlin that hasn’t been said already? As I watched last week’s four- day media circus surrounding the Anna Nicole Smith court proceeding, I was struck (along with millions of others) by the consistently inappropriate and off- the- wall behavior of Judge Larry. When word got out that he had aspirations to become a “TV judge” (he had apparently made and pitched an audition tape), I focused my attention on Judge Larry’s “presentation” since this is what I coach corporate executives and others to do. From a media and public relations standpoint, how did the judge come across? Was he likable? Did he connect with the other players in the courtroom? What impact did his behavior have on the court proceedings?
There are so many questions about the judge’s performance, but first, let me address a related issue. In general, I like the idea of cameras in the courtroom. They give Americans a much better sense of how the judicial process works (or doesn’t work). Post O.J. Simpson, the interest in courtroom cameras and the bigger question of the media’s role in the judicial process has gotten much attention. In this vein, consider that once in a while you get a judge who is more interested in being on TV and is so consumed by the cameras that he allows the proceedings to spin out of control.
Many say Judge Larry Seidlen was just being himself, but I’ve got to believe that the cameras caused the judge become more “over the top” than usual. This case was not about Judge Larry’s workout routine or which of his rich friends were able to fly Howard K. Stern back and forth from the Bahamas. It wasn’t about his wife or his tuna sandwiches or his sobbing. It was about deciding where Anna Nicole Smith would be buried. Larry Siedlin’s “antidotes,” as he called them, were often inappropriate, uninteresting and irrelevant. They caused the proceeding to drag on much longer than needed. It was like the judge knew this was his best shot at getting as famous as possible.
Having a wacky, eccentric judge may be good for our media business, but it is not so good for the judicial process. Judge Seidlin’s antics greatly influenced others in the courtroom. He called lawyers by the state they were from — cute, but goofy. He had some lawyers singing songs he said he did not know. There was yelling and screaming, and many carried on like a bunch of comedians. He headed this three-ring circus while Anna Nicole’s body was rapidly decomposing.
I understand the argument that a judge needs to have an engaging personality to “keep things light and moving,” but Judge Seidlin bogged things down. It was all about him. The last time I checked, this was supposed to be about coming to a fair and impartial decision on a matter before the court.
As for Judge Seidlin’s potential future as a TV judge, I don’t buy it. He was too self-absorbed and too caught up in finding ways to make the case about him. His sobbing may have been genuine, but it came across as contrived. TV personalities have to get to the point— quickly. The judge often wandered all over the place, leaving the rest of us trying to figure what his point was. It must have been unbearable for those in the courtroom. It was like watching a performer bomb on stage and hear all those nervous laughs because people don’t know what to do or where to look. His wise guy “New York attitude” didn’t play well. I grew up in Newark, N.J., in a neighborhood with lot of guys who spoke like Larry Seidlin; but some of us grew up. We went to school. We became professionals and learned how to communicate in a professional fashion. I’m not talking stuffy or pompous, but with some dignity and class.
I say Larry Seidlin will never make it as a TV judge. His audition in Florida last week was a bust. He was a blowhard. A rambling goof. Americans smell “overacting” a mile away- and we don’t like it. If Judge Larry was just being HIMSELF, fine, but his real life personality would never play on a daily basis. His schtick is tired and worst of all, boring— the kiss of death on TV.
Sorry Judge, good luck in your next TV audition. I just hope the rest of us don’t have to sit through it.
Write to Steve Adubato at SAdubato@aol.com