Edward Lozzi & Associates


Thank you to Attorney Scott Whitenack for allowing us to include his great tribute to the great attorney Melvin Belli who I was privileged to learn from and serve.

Internationally known trial attorney, Melvin Mouron Belli, formerly headed law firms headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Beverly Hills, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

The Belli Building at 722 Montgomery Street in San Francisco was built in 1849 and is designated as a state and national historical landmark and the birthplace of freemasonry in California. Bret Harte penned "Luck of the Roaring Camp" in one of the buildings now known as "Caesar's Annex."

Mr. Belli was born to a pioneer family on July 29, 1907 in Sonora, Tuolumne County, and the heart of California's Gold Rush region. Doctors and educators were among his maternal forebears. His grandmother, Anna Mouron, was California's first woman druggist. Henri Mouron was professor of languages at St. Augustine's College and headmaster of the Young Ladies Seminary of St. Mary's of the Pacific, one of the first schools in California.

On his father's side were many early California and Nevada settlers. His father, Caesar Belli, was born in Eureka, Nevada, and became a prominent banker in California's Mother Lode region.

Mr. Belli's legal practice, writings and lectures took him to all corners of the world, but he made his home in San Francisco with his four beloved dogs. He was married six times and had six children and 13 grandchildren.


Mr. Belli built his stellar career by defending the rights of the individual. After graduating from law school, he posed as an indigent for the Federal Government and rode the rails to observe the Depression's impact on the country's vagrant population. His findings were later used as the basis for transient relief programs throughout the nation.

He was admitted to the California Bar in November 1933, and served as counsel for the Catholic priest at San Quentin Prison. He took up the challenging task of defending men on Death Row.

His work in representing victims of personal injury and in raising personal injury awards to then-unprecedented heights earned him the title of "The King of Torts" by Life Magazine writer Robert Wallace in a 1954 profile. Wallace later wrote a book about Mr. Belli and his work, entitled Life and Limb. Mr. Belli won dozens of multi-million-dollar verdicts, totaling more that 700 million for his clients.

He has also been called the "Father of Demonstrative Evidence" for his pioneering work in illustrating in court the nature of his clients' injuries. His early use of photographs, movies, scale models, human skeletons, animals, prostheses, and other devices was dramatic, riveting and highly effective.

High profile clients of Melvin Belli's law firm have included Mae West, Errol Flynn, Tony Curtis, Lenny Bruce, Zsa Zsa Gabor, The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Muhammad Ali, Alex Haley, Nick Nolte, Mickey Cohen and the criminal defense of Jack Ruby, on trial for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Melvin Belli won a reversal on Jack Ruby's death penalty conviction from the Texas Appellate Court as well as a new trial outside of Dallas, but Ruby died of brain cancer soon afterwards, and before a second trial. Mr. Belli's book, "Dallas Justice", chronicles his perspective of the Jack Ruby case.

Other high-profile clients and cases followed: the so-called "Angel of Death," the Nevada nurse accused of murdering patients; former television evangelist, Jim Baker and his wife, Tammy Faye; Jerry and Helen Barr, the parents of television star, Roseanne Barr Arnold; the shooting of Korean Air Line Flight 0007 by a Soviet jet fighter; torture and beating cases against the late Philippine President, Ferdinand Marcos; MGM Grand Hotel fire in Las Vegas; Union Carbide chemical disaster in Bhopal, India; Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska; defective silicone gel breast implants by Dow Corning and other implant manufacturers; product liability suits against the makers of the dietary supplement L-Tryptophan; and sexual assault and harassment lawsuits against the Tailhook Association, Las Vegas Hilton and the U.S. Navy.

Mr. Belli's association with the rich and famous and flair for courtroom theatrics earned him his own niche in the entertainment industry. He appeared in several feature films, including "Gimme Shelter" with The Rolling Stones and "Wild in the Streets. In 1968 he appeared as the Evil Gorgon on an episode of "Star Trek" with his son, Caesar. Other television shows in which he appeared include "Murder She Wrote" and "Hunter." He was featured in several commercials and advertisements, and was a guest on countless television and radio talk shows throughout the country.


Mr. Belli attended elementary schools in Sonora and Stockton, California. University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, Berkeley, LLB, 1933. Subsequent studies in Europe. Admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court; U.S. Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit; U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California; U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California; other U.S. district courts; Tax Court of the United States; and to all California courts.

Mr. Belli has received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities throughout the United States, including New England College of Law, Columbia Institute of Chiropractic, and Western State University.


San Francisco Bar Association; California Bar Association; American Bar Association; Federal Bar Association; International Bar Association; International Academy of Trial Lawyers (co-founder, dean emeritus, former director, fellow); Association of Trial Lawyers of America (co-founder and past president); American Trial Lawyers Association Western States (past president); The Belli Society (provost); San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association (co-founder, first dean); California Trial Lawyers Association; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Barristers Club of San Francisco (past director); Lawyers' Club of San Francisco; Criminal Trial Lawyers Association of Northern California; American Academy of Forensic Science; American Board of Criminal Lawyers; Who's Who in America; Northern California College of Chiropractic (Board of Trustees); National Advisory Board, American Journal of Trial Advocacy; Los Angeles Trial Lawyers Association; Italian-American Bar Association; Legion of Honor of Cuba; Grand Collar Order of St. Brigida; La Association Nacional de Abogados, Mexico (honorary member); Belli Foundation (president); Trial Diplomacy Journal (Board of Editors); American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry (board member); The Common Law Lawyer (Editorial Board); Texas Trial Lawyers Association; Advocates' Council, Animal Legal Defense Fund (charter member); Screen Actors Guild. Phi Delta Phi (legal fraternity); Delta Tau Delta (academic fraternity); Masonic Orders; Association Internationale des Juristes Democrats; San Francisco Press Club; Olympic Club; Commonwealth Club; Motorcycle Officers of California; E. Clampus Vitus, Yerba Buena (honorary member).


Founder and moderator of the Belli Seminars. The Belli Society lectures have been presented at major law schools throughout the United States and abroad, including Harvard, Yale, Pepperdine, Princeton, University of California, Western State University, and many others.
Mr. Belli has lectured to many bar associations, societies, law schools, and clubs and organizations all over the world.


Mr. Belli has written and co-written 72 books and contributed to numerous law reviews, professional magazines and general-readership publications, which include:

Captain Fred Reckenbiel 1949
The Voice of Modern Trials 1950
The Adequate Award 1951
The More Adequate Award: A Collection of More Adequate Awards to February 1952 1952
The More Adequate Award and the Flying Saucers 1952
Modern Trials (6 volumes) 1954
The Use of Demonstrative Evidence in Achieving the More Adequate Award 1955
Medical Malpractice 1955
Blood Money Ready for the Plaintiff 1956
Ready for the Plaintiff: A Story of Personal Injury Law 1956
Trial and Tort Trends Through 1955, (12 volumes) 1956
The Modern Trial Lawyer 1956
Modern Trial Law 1957
Modern Damages (6 volumes) 1959
Belli Looks at Life and Law in Japan
(with Danny R. Jones) 1960
Belli Seminar 1960
Modern Trials: Supplement 1961
Tort and Medical Yearbook
(edited with Albert Averbach) 1961
Belli Looks at Life and Law in Russia (with Danny R. Jones) 1963
Modern Trials (abridged edition) 1963
Dallas Justice: The Real Story of Jack Ruby And His Trial (with Maurice C. Carroll) 1964
Jack Ruby, Appellant, vs. the State of Texas, Appellee: Amicus Curiae Brief for Jack Ruby, Defendant and Appellant 1965
The Belli Building: San Francisco 1966
Trial Tactics 1967
Criminal Law 1968
The Law Revolt: A Summary of Trends in Modern Criminal and Civil Law (Volume l); Criminal Law (Volume 2): Civil Law 1968
The Law Revolution 1968
Angela: A Revealing Close-Up of the Woman And the Trial 1971
My Life on Trial
(with Robert Blair Kaiser) 1976

Melvin M. Belli, Sr. may have passed on, however his impact on my life and the rest of the world will continue on.....

Copyright 2002 by Law Offices Of Scott B. Whitenack. All rights reserved.

· Phone: (310) 922-1200 · eMail: epl@lozzipr.com ·

« Home »  « Services »  «Clients»  « News »  « Biography » « Photo Gallery » « eMail »