Finding Aid to the Melvin M. Belli papers, 1939-1989 (bulk 1955-1980)

Bancroft Library staff
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
© 2013
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Finding Aid to the Melvin M. Belli papers, 1939-1989 (bulk 1955-1980)

Collection number: BANC MSS 2012/185

The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
Finding Aid Author(s):
Bancroft Library staff
Date Completed:
September 2013
Finding Aid Encoded By:
GenX
© 2013 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Collection Summary

Collection Title: Melvin M. Belli papers
Date (inclusive): 1939-1989
Date (bulk): 1955-1980
Collection Number: BANC MSS 2012/185
Creator: Belli, Melvin M.
Extent: 12 cartons, 2 boxes, 1 oversize folder 16 linear feet
Repository: The Bancroft Library.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
Abstract: The Belli papers include the correspondence, working papers and personal papers of Melvin M. Belli. The materials have generally been kept in the order in which they were received and have been broken down into nine series following that arrangement: Correspondence; Case Files; Professional Files; Writings; Speaking Engagements; Television/Radio/Film; Press; Subject Files; and Personal.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

Information for Researchers

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Melvin M. Belli Papers, BANC MSS 2012/185, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
Belli, Melvin M., 1907-1996--Archives
Lawyers -- California -- San Francisco.
Lawyers -- United States.
Trial practice--United States.

Administrative Information

The Melvin M. Belli Papers were given to The Bancroft Library by Robert L. Lieff in 2012.
No additions are expected.

Processing Information

Processed by Bancroft Library staff in 2013.

Biography/Organization History

Melvin Mouron Belli was born in Sonora, California in 1907. he was raised in Sonora and Stockton, graduating from Stockton High School in 1925. He went on to graduate from the University of California Berkeley and Boalt Law School, from which he graduated in 1933.
Belli quickly gained noteriety in the field of personal injury law due in part to his dramatic courtroom style. Christened the "King of Torts" by Life Magazine in 1954, Belli was known for securing large monetary awards for his personal injury clients.
Belli rose to national prominence in 1964 when he defended Jack Ruby in the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. Other famous clients over the years of his practice included Lenny Bruce, Mario Savio, and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
Belli died in 1996 at the age of 88.

Scope and Content Note

The Belli papers include the correspondence, working papers and personal papers of Melvin M. Belli. The materials have generally been kept in the order in which they were received and have been broken down into nine series following that arrangement: Correspondence; Case Files; Professional Files; Writings; Speaking Engagements; Television/Radio/Film; Press; Subject Files; and Personal.

Container Listing

 

Series 1 Correspondence 1953-1982

Physical Description: cartons 1-2; carton 3, folders 1-24

Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Consists primarily of copies of outgoing correspondence and memos authored by secretarial staff under Belli's signature.
Carton 1, folders 1-38

Correspondence 1953-1973

carton 2, folders 1-35

Correspondence 1973-1976

carton 3, folders 1-24

Correspondence 1976-1982

 

Series 2 Case Files 1950-1974

Physical Description: carton 3, folders 25-31; cartons 4-7; carton 8, folders 1-4

Arrangement

Arranged hierarchically.

Scope and Content Note

Contains correspondence and legal documents relating to Belli's first divorce (from Elizabeth B. Belli); his actions against Cutter Laboratories; actions by the American Bar Association against him and his responding lawsuits; actions by the California State Bar Association against him and his responding lawsuits; and his defense of Jack Ruby.
carton 3, folders 25-31

Elizabeth B. Belli v. Melvin M. Belli 1950-1960

carton 4, folders 1-9

Elizabeth B. Belli v. Melvin M. Belli 1950-1960

carton 4, folders 10-18

Cutter Labs 1955-1964

carton 5, folders 1-18

American Bar Association 1964-1968

carton 6, folders 1-15

California State Bar v. Belli 1966-1974

carton 7, folders 1-11

California State Bar v. Belli 1966-1974

carton 8, folder 1

California State Bar v. Belli 1966-1974

carton 8, fodlers 2-4

State of Texas v. Jack Rubenstein, alias Jack Ruby circa 1964

carton 8, folders 5-13

Series 3 Professional Files 1956-1977

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically.

Scope and Content Note

Primarily consists of topical files regarding various professional organizations.
carton 8, folder 5

Closed Cases 1970-1971

carton 8, folders 6-10

International Academy of Trial Lawyers 1959-1972

carton 8, folder 11

Kentucky State Bar Association 1958-1960

carton 8, folder 12

National Association of Claimants' Compensation Attorneys 1956

carton 8, folder 13

Washington Office 1974-1977

 

Series 4 Writings 1939-1987

Physical Description: carton 8, folders 14-20; carton 9

Arrangement

Arranged hierarchically.

Scope and Content Note

Contains correspondence, contracts, drafts and other materials regarding Belli's writings, including the books, Ready for the Plaintiff and Modern Trials.
carton 8, folders 14-19

Ready for the Plaintiff 1953-1970

carton 8, folder 20

Modern Trials 1954-1960

carton 9, folders 1-6

Modern Trials 1954-1960

carton 9, folder 7

The Voice of Modern Trials 1959

carton 9, folder 8

Belli's Law 1987

carton 9, folders 9

Articles- correspondence

carton 9, folder 10

The Assault on the Death Penalty undated

carton 9, folder 11

Class Actions... The Small Claimant's Right to Justice 1970

carton 9, folder 12

Divorce- Love that Spouse! undated

carton 9, folder 13

It's a Better World than Barnum's undated

carton 9, folder 14

Law of Necessity 1939

carton 9, folder 15

Making Eight the Hard Way circa 1982

carton 9, folder 16

No Fault Article 1972

carton 9, folder 17

Pardon Article 1974

carton 9, folder 18

Punitive Damages Article 1977

carton 9, folder 19

Suing Fever Article 1977

carton 9, folder 20

Virginia Law Weekly 1955

carton 9, folder 21

Book Reviews 1958-1959

carton 9, folder 22

Kemp's- Quantum of Damages in Personal Injury Cases 1955-1956

carton 9, folder 23

Killer: A Journal of Murder- review undated

carton 9, folder 24

Potential Writings 1957-1958

carton 9, folder 25

Writings Pending 1955-1960

carton 9, folder 26

Literary General 1957-1958

carton 9, folder 27

Contracts and Correspondence 1969-1972

carton 9, folder 28

Central Book Company 1956-1959

 

Series 5 Speaking Engagements 1953-1987

Physical Description: carton 10, folders 1-32

Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Includes drafts of speeches, correspondence regarding speaking engagements and other materials regarding requests for Belli to speak at various events.
carton 10, folder 1

Speeches 1953

carton 10, folder 2

Medico- Legal Seminar 1958

carton 10, folders 3-4

Belli Lectures 1958

carton 10, folder 5

Yale University 1959

carton 10, folder 6

Canadian Tour 1961

carton 10, folder 7

Speeches 1970-1971

carton 10, folder 8

Jake Ehrlich Memorial 1972-1973

carton 10, folder 9

The Wonderful World of Torts 1973

carton 10, folder 10

Harvard Law School Forum 1975

carton 10, folder 11

University of Guam 1975

carton 10, folder 12

South Bay Press Club 1975-1976

carton 10, folder 13

National College of Advocacy 1976

carton 10, folder 14

Sacramento Barristers Club 1976

carton 10, folder 15

International First Aid and Rescue Organization 1977

carton 10, folder 16

Lectures 1973-1977

carton 10, folder 17

San Diego Trial Lawyers Association 1975-1977

carton 10, folder 18

Junior League of San Francisco 1977

carton 10, folder 19

San Francisco Dental Forum 1977

carton 10, folder 20

Ivy League Lectures 1977, 1980

carton 10, folder 21

Mensa 1980

carton 10, folder 22

Speaking Engagements 1982-1985

carton 10, folder 23

Potential Lectures 1957-1958

carton 10, folders 24-32

Belli Seminars 1960-1987

 

Series 6 Television/ Radio/ Film 1967-1985

Physical Description: carton 10, folders 33-34; carton 11, folders 1-7

Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Includes correspondence, contracts and other materials regarding television, film and radio appearances made by Belli.
carton 10, folder 33

Wild in the Streets 1967

carton 10, folder 34

KEMO-TV Belli Show 1968

carton 11, folders 1-2

KEMO-TV Belli Show 1968

carton 11, folder 3

Film- Burton Moss Agency 1970

carton 11, folder 4

Television- Ashman 1974

carton 11, folder 5

CBS Pilot 1978

carton 11, folder 6

The Belli File 1981

carton 11, folder 7

The World According to Belli 1985

 

Series 7 Press 1954-1989

Physical Description: carton 11, folders 8-18

Arrangement

Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Content Note

Includes various press clippings about Belli.
carton 11, folder 8-18

Press 1954-1989

 

Series 8 Subject Files 1954-1980

Physical Description: carton 11, folders 19-35; carton 12, folders 1-7; box 2

Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically.
carton 11, folder 19

Advertising undated

carton 11, folder 20

Ashman, Chuck 1974-1979

carton 11, folders 21-22

Belli portrait 1960

carton 11, folder 23

Bonanza 1959

carton 11, folder 24

Celebrity Pumpkin Carve-in 1980

carton 11, folder 25

Civilian Restriction of Military Criminal Jurisdiction undated

carton 11, folder 26

Curtis, Tony 1961-1962

carton 11, folder 27

Europe- Japan Trip 1974

carton 11, folder 28

Federal Bar Association 1958-1959

carton 11, folder 29

Germany Trip 1975

box 2

Habush-Stich Matter- VHS tape 1979

carton 11, folder 30

Haley, Alex- Belli Biography 1967-1970

carton 11, folder 31

Insurance Broker undated

box 2

Jensen Case- KGO Footage undated

carton 11, folder 32

The Jonathan Club 1966

carton 11, folder 33

Jury Selection- Senate 1967

carton 11, folder 34

KQED Auction 1978

carton 11, folder 35

Life and Limb 1954-1956

carton 12, folders 1-3

Life and Limb 1955-1956

carton 12, folder 4

Million Dollar Roundtable 1974

carton 12, folder 5

Mrs. America Pageant 1980

carton 12, folder 6

Publicity undated

carton 12, folder 7

World Trip 1957

 

Series 9 Personal 1954-1986

Physical Description: carton 12, folders 8-39; box 1; oversize folder 1

Arrangement

Arranged hierarchically.

Scope and Content Note

The first part of this series consists of papers relating to the numerous parties hosted by Belli over the years, from his annual office Christmas Party, to cocktail parties during professional meetings and celebrations of personal milestones such as weddings and birthdays. Other materials regarding his personal life are organized alaphabetically by topic and include correspondence, photographs, Christmas cards and materials pertaining to his family.
carton 12, folders 8-38

Parties 1968-1982

carton 12, folder 39

Appointment Diary 1980

box 1, folder 1

Burglaries 1969-1970

box 1, folder 2

Biographical File undated

box 1, folder 3

Calendar 26 March 1969

box 1, folder 4-5

Christmas Cards

box 1, folder 6

King Ranch 1973-1975

box 1, folder 7

Loans 1986

box 1, folder 8

Personal Correspondence 1959

box 1, folder 9

Toni Belli 1954-1955

box 1, folder 10

Family 1978

box 1, folder 11

Photographs undated

oversize-unit A, folder 1

Photographs undated

box 1, folder 12

Negatives undated