"We go places and people say, 'You're the judge. God bless you.' And then they start hugging me," retired judge Larry Seidlin said in an exclusive interview on "Good Morning America" today.
Seidlin, in his first interview since presiding over the case, navigated what critics called circuslike proceedings for Smith's body. Eighteen attorneys, who represented five separate clients, squared off against one another in a bizarre drama that unfolded in Seidlin's courtroom.
Yet even with the publicity surrounding the trial and the then-unresolved issue of Smith's infant daughter Dannielynn's paternity saga, it was Seidlin's courtroom antics that drew the most attention.
His lengthy soliloquies and sometimes tearful, emotive demeanor, helped make the legal proceedings must-see television for viewers and led to constant coverage.
But Seidlin, who spent 28 years on the bench in family court, said his primary goal was to ensure a harmonious resolution, not seek fame for himself.
Some critics disagreed and argued that Seidlin was taking the focus away from the trial.
"A lot of the lawyers that spoke about the case aren't family lawyers," Seidlin said.
They don't understand the workings of family court, he said. "I try to leave my critics in my dust.
"When you sat as a judge you felt like you were doing God's work trying to bring families back together," he told "GMA."
Seidlin said he was boosted further when an appellate court upheld his ruling that Smith be buried in the Bahamas beside her beloved son Daniel Smith.
"I was satisfied with the result," Seidlin said. "At the end of the trial you saw all the parties outside the court holding hands."
Seidlin left the bench in 2007 to spend more time with his wife and young daughter, but said retirement was bittersweet because he no longer would be able to mediate cases that could bring families together. "I wanted Dannielynn to have good life, and I knew I was no longer going to be there to navigate that life for her," he said. "I'm happy. It seems that Dannielynn is doing very well."
But though he has left the courtroom, that doesn't mean Seidlin will be out of the public eye. He said he's been offered several opportunities in television and teaching.
The man, who some said would make a great television justice, said if he did preside over cases on air he'd be a mix of several judges currently seen on television, including Judge Judy Sheindlin and Judge Joe Brown.
"I'm very fortunate that opportunities have come my way. There's a lot of stuff in the works," Seidlin said. "I want to do what works for me."