||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
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
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
LECTURES AND SEMINARS:
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
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
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
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