What a Good Judge Would Have Done

Sorry, but yesterday's final pathetic act in the saga of Anna Nicole Smith was so beyond the pale, so revolting, and so far removed from the reality of law and justice in America that I have to blog about it. I truly apologize to those of you who have come here looking for refuge from the storm of coverage that has washed over America since she died earlier this month.

Let me speak now only about the trial judge. He was in so far over his head that you couldn't even see ripples in the water. His performance over the past week was so bad, so unseemly, and so inappropriate that the Florida bar ought to immediately launch an investigation into whether he is truly fit to determine the rights and liberties of others. Yesterday, the Evening News used a soundbyte of mine in which I said: "he guy wants to be Hamlet in a robe-- the problem is, Hamlet in the end made a decision." Indeed, Broward County Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin's cowardly failure or refusal at the end of the hearing to even make a firm decision on the disposition of Smith's body-- he punted to the guardian he had appointed to represent the interests of Smith's new baby and the guardian promptlly acted-- was clearly the worst of all of this. That and his blubbering.

Here is what a good judge would have done. Last week, when it became clear that there was a dispute over what to do with Smith's body, a good judge would have summoned all the parties and their lawyers to his chambers and read the group the riot act. He would have politely informed them that it would take a week and tens of thousands of dollars to fight it out in court. He would have told them that it would be emotionally grueling upon all of them. He would have educated them informally about the law and told them that any agreement they could come to voluntarily would be better than any court-ordered resolution that he could offer. He would have twisted their arms and beaten their brows and made it clear that the best alternative was the quick deal.

All over the country, judges do this in civil and (to a more disturbing degree) in criminal cases. I remember a case in which a federal judge orderered the parties-- not just the lawyers-- to fly half-way across the country for a minor little status conference just so he could impress upon them his control of the case and his desire to see it settled. Of course, when everyone got together they talked settlement. Judge Seidlin might not have succeeded if he had gone this rout. But he might have-- and in doing so might have prevented the atrocity of a hearing over which he just presided. This fool has just had his five minutes of fame. He has had the opportunity to engage in stream-of-consciousness judgeship-- either that or a carefully orchestrated nervous breakdown-- with the whole world watching. Now I hope he gets what's coming to him.

By Andrew Cohen |  February 23, 2007; 8:15 AM ET
Previous: Watching the Wheels Go Round and Round | Next: A Problem That Could Have Been Worse

Comments

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The judge is so disgusting that I hope no media will pay any attention on him any more.

He allows hearsay, speculations to enter his courtroom without any restriction.

He was there serving his 15-minute fame not his duties as a judge.

He even criticized Stern "maybe a 'bad guy'" when judge is supposed to be as objective, fair and just as possible.

First of all, how can he even said that without evidence? Stern should sue him.

He made me want to vomit.

Posted by: May2002 | February 23, 2007 12:46 PM

While not defending (or accusing) the Judge in the Anna Nichole case-- your solution of hitting heads to get a settlement, while practised by many judges, should be done with caution. Judge Roberts --see link here: http://theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070224/NEWS/702240425/0/FRONTPAGE is removed from a case for engaging in such behavior. Yes it was a criminal case, but in Florida Judges need to beware of that way. The court can, and usually does, order cases to mediation with a private (or sometimes court supplied) mediator. A better solution in many ways than the judge chiming in, and trying to skate the thin line between encouragement to reach a good conclution and prejudicial remarks.

Posted by: Florida lawyer | February 25, 2007 10:01 AM

As a former family law practitioner, I agree 100% with Andrew Cohen's analysis of the circus surrounding the Florida hearing held by Judge Seidlin. He should be removed from the bench. He was so far out of bounds, making inappropriate personal remarks, meandering into irrelevant matters, setting a tone that was ridiculous, ignoring Florida law.

Seidlin used a hearing to decide where a deceased woman ought to be buried to further his television aspirations, and he may have succeeded. It is an indication of the banality of US culture that CBS is going to give this jerk a try-out. Shame on CBS.

Posted by: Massachusetts/New York lawyer | February 27, 2007 06:29 PM

State & Federal Judges must be elected Term Limits: to weed out the Incompetence of Judicial Rulings www.judicialdelusions.blogspot.com Separation of Powers Doctrine eliminates the Citizenery from holding JUdicial Offices Unconstitutionally applied.
Hopefully the Baby's LEgal Guardian may have the real Father/Lawyer Father share in the Inheritance/ Cistody

Posted by: Sharon4Anderson@aol.com | March 1, 2007 12:03 PM

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