||It's fitting that
the Montgomery Street office building of Melvin Belli,
the King of Torts, is mired in a seemingly unending morass of lawsuits brought
by Belli's survivors, former business associates, neighbors, and the City.
The flamboyant and influential Belli was a pivotal figure in today's litigious
society as an innovator in the area of personal injury law. He took on big
corporations and controversial clients. Belli's clients included Errol Flynn,
Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, Lana Turner, Mae West, Muhammad Ali, and Jack
Ruby. The Gold Rush era building at 722 Montgomery
Street is a historical landmark and the offices where the renowned attorney
held court. Eventually
reduced to a ramshackle, the offices were once
a monument to Belli's $60 million success. Belli died in 1996 at the age
of 88, just a few months after filing for bankruptcy. Parties involved in
acrimony over the landmark property and/or a fortune in unfinished legal
cases include Belli's son Melvin Caesar Belli, the senior Belli's wife of
three months Nancy Ho Belli, the City's Building Inspection Department,
and others. Particularly galling to San Franciscans is the fact that Mrs.
Belli, who announced the ground breaking for a Belli museum on the site
in 1997, sat on the San
Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board while she allowed the Belli
building fall into ruin.
about the Bellis