By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
A key witness in the well-publicized civil suit aimed at Larry Seidlin is a courthouse attorney who once worked closely with the former Broward County Circuit Court judge. And the witness could provide more embarrassment and shame for Seidlin than Seidlin caused Broward County while presiding over the nationally televised Anna Nicole Smith circus back in 2007.
The lawyer, who no longer works in the courthouse and spoke on the condition of anonymity, gave me an earful last week. The lawyer said Seidlin often spoke about Barbara Kasler, the elderly widow in his building whom the lawsuit claims he systematically exploited. Kasler handed over more than a half-million dollars in cash and assets. But the lawyer said Seidlin never referred to Kasler by name. "He always called her the 'old lady,' " said the source. "He told me, 'I met an old lady in my building. She's out of her mind, but she's loaded.' "
The attorney also claimed to have witnessed the judge and another lawyer discussing property Kasler owned in Palm Bay. "They were looking over the survey and the deed of the property, and Seidlin said, 'We'll put in [the judge's daughter] Daxie's name; that way, they'll never trace it back to us.' It wound up being put in the wife's name, so I guess they realized how hard it is to put property in a child's name."
Shortly after that, Seidlin brought up the property again with the source.
"He came back to me and said, 'You know that property I was talking about? I don't want you to think about it. It's just a property full of rocks, and it's only worth two grand. I don't want to concern you with it,' " the attorney recounted. "A week later, he asked me how to write a will that can't be contested."
Seidlin eventually had Kasler's will rewritten to include his wife, Belinda, and daughter. Their names have since been removed by family members and advocates who pushed the lawsuit. The land was valued at $45,000 when it was transferred from Kasler to Belinda Ray Seidlin.
The former judge's attorney, Theodore Kypreos, didn't return a call seeking comment. Kasler, a frail woman in her 80s who had recently lost her son when Seidlin entered her life, told me in 2007 that she "didn't want to bother" with the land anymore so she gave it to "Dax," whom she thought might want to build a house on it someday.
Seidlin is accused of immersing himself in Kasler's life, calling himself her son, providing her meals, and making Kasler so dependent upon him that she gave him cash, land, a condo at a cut-rate price, and tuition for Dax to attend the very expensive Pine Crest School.
The potential witness describes it as a cold and calculated ploy. The attorney claimed to have asked Seidlin to bring his mother to a wedding over which Seidlin was presiding.
"Seidlin said, 'No, I'm bringing the old lady; it's important that she see me in my robes,' " the attorney told me.
The witness spoke of more than just Seidlin's relationship with the elderly widow; the attorney also provided insight into the former judge's infamously lax work ethic. "He'd roll in a little after 9, and he would come in and order some clothes or jewelry for his wife over the phone," said the lawyer. "Then he would do the juveniles and then maybe some probate. At about 11 o'clock, his wife would come in... to shoot the breeze and go with him to lunch."
In the afternoon, Seidlin did what the attorney described as "drive-bys."
"He would come back in the afternoon in his car, and he would sign what he had to sign out in the street," said the lawyer. "He would have someone in his office bring the files down to the corner, and he would sign them in the car. He would wear a hat and sunglasses like he didn't want people to recognize him."
The attorney said Seidlin actually checked with state officials to make sure he wasn't required to work full business days. "He had his [judicial assistant] call someone in Tallahassee to see if there were any requirements that a judge had to work a seven- or eight-hour day," said the source. "She came back and said there are no requirements about how long you have to work so long as you get through the docket."
And so Seidlin sped through his dockets, earning the nickname "Lightning Larry." While he was still judge, he was the subject of a gotcha report by WSVN-TV (Channel 7) reporter Carmel Cafiero. "[W]hen we watched the judge April 10th and 11th and April 17th and 18th, Seidlin's lunch breaks lasted close to three hours," Cafiero reported. "If he worked at all in the afternoons, it was for about one hour. And by 4, he was at a tennis club three out of the four days."
Seidlin had a short attention span, said the attorney, never read books, and had little knowledge of the law. "You could put all his knowledge of the law in a thimble and still have room left over," said the lawyer. "I don't know how he got a bar license; he had the worst attention deficit I've ever seen. He was always afraid people were going to figure out that he didn't know the law, but I always say Seidlin is the luckiest man alive."