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The only time I ever spoke to Melvin Belli, he threatened to sue me. Belli was upset over an article that I had written about him and some former partners who angrily split with their mentor during a novel suit against the regime of the late Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Belli and his former partners had agreed to handle the case jointly, but when the trial ended in a stunning $1.2 billion verdict for the plaintiffs — men and women tortured by Marcos’s operatives — a tug-of-war erupted over who deserved the credit for the win. The jockeying made for good copy.

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