Judge Ito's Got Nothing on This Guy

In the morbidly mesmerizing circus-of-a-trial over Anna Nicole Smith's body, one man is standing out as a star: P.T. Barnum in a black robe -- Broward County Circuit Court Judge Larry Seidlin.

Seidlin somehow managed to send shockwaves even through a community of viewers sure to be jaded by now by the endless jaw-dropping circumstances in the case.

They may have thought they'd seen it all with this story. But then they got a judge in chambers, pronouncing that Anna Nicole Smith's "body belongs to me now" and "that baby is in a cold, cold storage room."

And then in a culmination of the strange journey, he shed actual tears as he issued his ruling.

"I have never in my life seen a judge get so emotional," said Royal Oakes, an ABC news legal analyst. "Judges are required to deal with highly personal, intense, life-changing decisions every day, and yet this judge could barely read his own decision he was so emotional."

Seidlin ruled that custody of the body should go to Richard Milstein, the attorney who was appointed to represent Smith's 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, in court. Seidlin said he hoped Smith will be buried in the Bahamas

"The decision, in retrospect, seems pretty straightforward," Oakes told ABC News Radio. "The baby is the next of kin. She has a guardian and so it's logical to have that guardian make the decision as to what should happen to the remains."

But it's the way Seidlin issued the decision that had people buzzing: He got choked up frequently and wept as he explained it, as onlookers gasped.

The New York Post labeled him a "wacky judge." In fact, sources say it's always been Seidlin's dream to become a judge on a "Judge Judy"-style TV courtroom show.

According to celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com, Seidlin is angling for his own television program. It says Seidlin has even made a demo tape of cases that were recorded in his courtroom.

It certainly seemed that way during the hearing. Seidlin became instantly famous for shooting from the lip, frequently throwing out one-liners a la Milton Berle; sending the courtroom into gales of laughter. He called lawyers nicknames like "Texas" and "Miss California" -- and made outlandish declarations like "I am the trier of fact," and "We are here on a search for the truth."

He also mangled witnesses' names and mixed up colloquial expressions. And the courtroom was a captive audience as he rambled on about his personal experience: "I've pretty much heard this case," he said, at one point. "I know it like the back of my hand. I dream about it. I jog, and think about it. I hit a tennis ball and am thinking about it. And when I'm looking at my little kid, I'm thinking about it. So we're going to move ahead."

Here is one of his interesting monologues: "I want to do what I can really do here. But that's what the three of you should be doing. Instead of fighting, you should join hands, join hands, because it's only in this country that you can join hands. We don't have these kinds of religious wars and all these other issues that take place around the world. We have a chance here to join hands and get a celebration of the life that Nicole, Anna Nicole had. We can celebrate her death -- some religions celebrate death -- and we would celebrate her memory and make her life worthwhile."

For attorneys who frequent his courtroom or old friends who know him, none of it was shocking. They say Seidlin has been talking that way in juvenile and probate court for years.

"He's always been a jokester," said Gary Ostrow, a defense attorney who has been best friends with Seidlin for 20 years. "The limelight doesn't change him. This is what he's like at all times: kidding around and having a good time."

Ostrow supports his friend in the face of critics who ridicule him.

"As long as he gets the job done and gives the right ruling, it doesn't matter." Ostrow said. " More judges should have his temperament. It makes court a lot less boring. Besides, he doesn't have a mean bone in his body."

Growing up in the Bronx, Seidlin's father was an interior decorator and his mother a secretary. He drove a yellow cab in New York City to pay for college and became an accountant, then went to law school at night.

His jobs in the 1970s included working as a Broward prosecutor and legal adviser to the Broward County sheriff. He was elected county court judge in 1978 and was appointed circuit judge in 1989.

He is now 56 years old, but married for the first time at 50. He has a 6-year-old daughter.

But not everyone who's worked with Seidlin would offer the same take as Ostrow. Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein refused to comment.

The two have a history -- in 2005, Finkelstein got Seidlin's wife, Belinda, fired from her job as an investigator in the public defender's office. "It didn't go well," Finkelstein told the Broward Daily Business Review. "But this office cannot be a place to put wayward wives and children."