Attorney Licensee Profile
Melvin Caesar Belli #111309
License Status: Active
Address: The Belli Law Ofcs, 35 Miller Ave Ste 199, Mill Valley, CA 94941-1903
County: Marin County
Phone Number: (415) 981-1850
Fax Number: (415) 981-8314
Email: Not Available
Law School: U of San Francisco SOL; San Francisco CA
Summaries from the California Bar Journal are based on discipline orders but are not the official records. Not all discipline actions have associated CBJ summaries. Copies of official licensee discipline records are available upon request.
August 20, 1999
MELVIN CAESAR BELLI [#111309], 42, of Mexicali, Mexico, was suspended for four years, stayed, placed on four years of probation with an actual one-year suspension and until he makes restitution and pays litigation costs, and was ordered to take the MPRE and comply with rule 955. If the actual suspension exceeds two years, he must prove his rehabilitation. The order took effect Aug. 20, 1999.Belli stipulated that he misappropriated and mishandled funds entrusted to him on behalf of his sister, Melia, and that by making unauthorized distributions to himself, he breached his fiduciary duty to his sister. The misappropriation amounted to moral turpitude.The son of Melvin Belli, the well-known and often controversial San Francisco attorney who died in 1996, Caesar Belli worked in his father's law firm.He was a beneficiary with Melia of an oral trust created in 1978 that included ownership interest in properties in Sonora and the San Francisco buildings known as the "Belli Buildings" where the law practice was located. Each child was given 50 percent ownership, and Caesar Belli was appointed trustee for Melia until she reached the age of 18.The trust terminated in 1991, when Melia turned 18.The State Bar contended that during the preceding 10 years, when Belli administered the trust, he diverted more than $200,000 from it for his own use. In 1992, his sister sued him, seeking damages and an accounting. The case was tried in 1994, with the court concluding that Belli breached his fiduciary duty to his sister by making excessive distributions to himself and by making personal and unrelated expenditures with trust funds.It ordered Belli to pay his sister $204,508, including $167,339.20 as reimbursement for his expenditures and distributions to himself, and more than $37,000 as reimbursement for an insurance premium on her father that she paid on behalf of the trust. The court later reduced the reimbursement from the insurance premium to $18,584.52, and ordered a final judgment against Belli of $117,588.48 plus costs of the suit.He made partial payment to Melia of $51,000 in April 1995 but made no further payments.In mitigation, Belli mistakenly believed it was acceptable to disburse more funds to himself than to his sister because he needed funds for living expenses to support his family. At the time, his father was providing living expenses and additional cash to Melia.Belli suffered financial problems when the Loma Prieta earthquake rendered the Belli buildings unusable, he had marital difficulties and serious problems with his father, and the law firm broke up acrimoniously. Caesar needed about $100,000 for his own legal fees, interfering with his ability to repay Melia.He has no record of discipline since his admission to the bar in 1983, and has devoted time and resources to improving the legal profession.
California Lawyers Association (CLA) is an independent organization and is not part of The State Bar of California.