Feb. 22, 2007 -- Not since Judge Ito has a black robe so thoroughly failed to contain the colorful personality of the man beneath it.
For more than a week, Florida circuit court Judge Larry Seidlin has run the Anna Nicole Smith court hearing with a jarring combination of comic wisecracks, stunningly personal commentary and naked emotion.
And while the judge has declined to speak to reporters, his wife talked to the ABC News Law & Justice Unit.
"People who know him, and people who meet him on the street all say the same thing, 'You should have your own television show,'" Seidlin's wife, Belinda, said Thursday night.
The judge has garnered almost as much attention as Anna Nicole Smith herself.
As he read his ruling Thursday -- giving custody of Smith's body to a court-appointed guardian for her 5-month-old daughter Dannielynn -- he wept.
Earlier in the week-long hearing, Seidlin told one high-strung blonde lawyer that she was beautiful, and took cell phone calls from his wife. He shared his morning exercise routine with the courtroom and the cameras.
And then there were the inadvertently humorous moments during the hearing.
At one point, referring to a dress being made for Smith's burial, Seidlin's face soured as he expressed his general discomfort over funeral details.
"This is the one area I always ran away from -- the death," Seidlin said.
It prompted amused attorney Stephen Tunstall to note wryly, "But you're a probate judge," referring to the type of judge whose job is to deal with wills.
"I don't think him to be crazy at all,'' said Belinda Seidlin. "I find him to be brilliant, and that's tough to say when you're married to someone for a long time."
The couple met when she was 16 and he was in his 20s. They married seven years ago.
Belinda Seidlin said the Smith case affected her husband very deeply and very personally.
"He was exhausted at night," she said. "He would work on the case, sit around and think about it, write things down. He's a very tough guy, but certain things [about the case] really affected him -- this child, particularly, and the way the mother passed away … really everything."
Baby Dannielynn was born last year days before her only brother Daniel died of an apparently accidental drug overdose. Several men have claimed paternity of the child and a lengthy court battle is ongoing over millions that could someday be awarded to the child.
Seidlin grew up in the Bronx, playing championship doubles tennis at Christopher Columbus High School with lifelong friend Dr. Sheldon Warman.
"Some people viewing [Seidlin] on television would see him as unorthodox," Warman said, "but this is how he's always been and why's he's been elected back into this office every six years since he was in his twenties."
"He has the softest heart you'll ever see," Warman said.
Referring to his friend crying on national television as he read his ruling, Warman said, "He meant that. … That was really him.
"He felt that heat in that courtroom," he added. "He saw everything going on, saw all the fighting between the attorneys, and he wanted to deflate that with his humor."
Warman warned against underestimating Seidlin.
"No one should ever think of his beautiful smile as a weakness," he said. "In his inimitable style he 'de-stresses' situations with his humor.
"When we play tennis together, he always has a running commentary," he added. "That's him. What he loves to do is dissect situations and comment on them. He's a very inquisitive guy."
For all the criticism, Seidlin has come under for his off-the-cuff style. His wife said it's a character trait that has served him well as a judge and a human being.
"One day you'll see him walking down the street with a judge," she said, "and another day you'll see him walking down the street with a guy with a bird on his shoulder."