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¨Larry vaulted across the table to get the bill,¨ Roberts recalls. ¨That was his turn to pay. I paid several hundred dollars, he paid about 28. It was the only time I remember ever seeing him reach into his pocket for anything.¨
Anecdotes about Seidlin´s frugality are legion at the courthouse. He reportedly made regular trips to a pizza joint at closing time to buy old slices for a quarter apiece, keeping them stored in his freezer. It´s said that he once put a pork chop in his sock to take home after a Florida Bar function. Things like that.
¨He´s always trying to get something for nothing,¨ Roberts says. ¨And that´s what he did with the purse and with the woman in his building. He found a golden goose. And Larry Seidlin will strangle the goose to get it to lay more eggs if he has to.¨
I called Schreiber, who is now in private law practice, but he was clearly in defensive mode. He said he didn´t think the judge had done anything wrong when it came to Kasler because she was lonely and depressed and the judge had ¨pulled her out of the doldrums.¨
So it was worth whatever large sums of money she gave him, he says.
When I brought up the trip to The Breakers, Schreiber started to clam up.
¨Both Larry and Chris are good friends of mine and I´ve been to a lot of places with them,¨ he said. ¨I remember paying my own bill, that´s all I really remember. So I can´t help you.¨ Then he hung up the phone.
So far Roberts is the only practicing lawyer to go on the record with firsthand experiences regarding corruption at the courthouse. And one reason he´s felt safe in coming forward is that he plans to move his family to northern Florida soon. In addition to the Seidlin allegations, he told WSVN-Channel 7 a few weeks ago that Judge Robert Zack borrowed $2,500 from him and didn´t pay it back.
Roberts simply shouldn´t have bought the purse for Seidlin or let Zack borrow the money. But Roberts says he felt pressured by both judges, even going so far as using the term ¨extortion¨ when it came to Seidlin´s requests.
¨It´s very hard to say no in a situation like that,¨ he says. ¨The truth is I really want to do well by my clients. But the courthouse is a cesspool and I´ve gotten completely disgusted with it. Unfortunately, nobody else has come forward.¨
The man should know the courthouse; he´s been a part of it for the past 35 years. Originally from New Jersey, he came to South Florida to attend the University of Miami and after graduating from law school started working at the State Attorney´s Office in 1972. A mere four years later he was elected as the youngest judge in Broward County history.
But Roberts had a problem. He was a binge drinker prone to doing idiotic things while under the influence. In 1981, while on a bender, he pulled over a driver he thought had cut him off. Then he held a gun on the driver while he called police -- who arrived and promptly arrested Roberts.
He went straight to rehab and resigned his judgeship. Then he got out of rehab and kept drinking, ringing up two more DUIs and burning through a few more failed stints in rehab.
Finally, on New Year´s Eve 1982, he quit drinking. By that time, though, he was broke and nearly friendless. The only person who would give him a job was former Sunrise mayor John Lomelo, who hired him as a municipal golf course maintenance man at about $200 a week.
When a Sun-Sentinel reporter heard about the judge-turned-groundskeeper, Roberts was put on the cover of Sunshine, the newspaper´s long-dead Sunday magazine. The article, titled ¨The Trials of Judge Roberts,¨ prompted several people who were dealing with alcoholism to contact him. And it gave him an idea: Get back into law and devote his practice to DUI cases.
Roberts has been doing that for about a quarter century now. ¨It´s like a little AA meeting every time somebody comes into my office,¨ he says.
After the Seidlin story broke, Roberts says he heard from his friend Schreiber, who visited him at his home in Coral Ridge last week. The two sat in the pool, Roberts says, and later had dinner together at Big Louie´s Pizza.
The former public defender asked a lot of questions, says Roberts: Had he had a drink lately? Was he on any prescription medication? C´mon, had he really not had a drink in 25 years?
Roberts became suspicious. Was Schreiber trying to dig up dirt for Seidlin?
Roberts says he doesn´t think so -- but if anyone understands the precarious nature of friendships forged at the Broward County Courthouse, it´s former Judge Lawrence ¨Chris¨ Roberts.