Martin Morris Berman spoke his last words on March 25th, 2020, in his Palm Springs home, dying in the arms of his devoted wife Jacqueline Berman from Covid-19. Martin was born to Mollie Gelbert and Abe Berman in Los Angeles, California December 24th, 1934. He was the mistake that thrilled Phillip Berman, his older brother by 16 years, who predeceased Marty in death in 1972.
Marty as he was called, was renowned as one of the United States most aggressive litigators, a generous philanthropist, and quite possibly, one of the greatest Trial Lawyers in American history.
Martin Morris Berman, was a member of the American Board of Trial Lawyers, an Arbitrator with the Superior Court in Los Angeles, he was admitted as an Attorney with The US Supreme Court, and The Supreme Court of the State of California. He was admitted to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and inducted into the United States District Court Northern California.
Martin entered USC law school night classes while he was working full time for NASA during the day as a chemical aerospace engineer in the Space program. Martin worked at Rocketdyne in Simi Valley, side-by-side with Wernher von Braun, the famous German Aerospace Architect. NASA brought Wernher to the US, to work with Martin who had developed a new jet propellant fuel that burned hotter in less time than previous experiments.
These two engineers were tasked with building a Hydrogen -P generator to boost rockets with Martins formula of jet propulsion made from condensed matter. The US was determined to beat the Russians into outer space.
Together, Martin and Wernher took the formula of liquid oxygen and hydrogen gas, that drove the pumps and boosted the thrust to propel rockets into Space.
Martin sent up Astronauts Grissom, Sheperd, Carpenter and Schira on the Mercury Redstone. NASA beat the Russians into Space with the Redstone. Martin then sent up the Atlas and his formula sent up the Apollo.
Martin met Astronaut Neil Armstrong, his alumni from USC who was also an aeronautical engineer. When Neil became the first person to walk on the moon, Neil sent Martin custom made Matchbooks, commemorating the first man on the moon. Neil’s name and date and logo with a character of an astronaut walking on the moon was imprinted on the cover. Neil sent Martin a handwritten thank you note with a dozen matchbooks, despite Martin had never smoked in his life. Martin preserved the matches with all his memorabilia from the Redstone, Atlas and Apollo ships, over three eras of space entry. Martin wrote in his little calendars that all six of the astronauts smoked and Wally chain smoked, walking with a cigarette in his mouth onto the launch pad ready to board the Redstone!
Martin kept four of the O-Rings that sit in the missile engines and had them made into book ends. These are the same designed O-rings that caused the Challenger to explode in 1986, 73 seconds after lift-off. Martin was an expert on the O-rings failing in cold or hot temperature changes. Martin was testing a rocket in the pit at Rocketdyne, when the very O-rings designed by NASA, caught the ship on fire. Martin hit the alarm bells and jumped into the pit and remained blasting the fire until his helmet melted. The heat burned his retina in one eye. Martin wrote in his journal, that the fire extinguishers he was using, could not put out a space fire as this fire was burning hotter and with less oxygen than a fire burns on earth. Martin did not run until he believed hundreds of employees had time to escape. When Martin could no longer take the heat, he ran out the door just ahead of the Rocketdyne Plant exploding. The sound from the blast cost him partial loss of hearing in one ear. He learned one employee did not make it out of the plant and died. Martin grieved for that man’s life, despite him being a hero and saving hundreds of lives that day. Martin decided it was time to change careers. Jacqueline has arranged to donate all of Martins’ one-of-a-kind space artifacts to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
Martin went on to obtain his Juris Doctorate from USC in June 1962, graduating magna cum laude. Years later, in addition to a full-time law practice, he taught college level courses at night at Glendale University College of Law.
Martin also taught a yearly seminar at USC, that he named Trial Practice for the graduating Law class, his last seminar taught in 2018.
Martin was a Regent and a Trojan Fanatic his entire life.
Martin was voted Trial Lawyer of the Year by Los Angeles County Trial Lawyers, and Riverside County Trial Lawyers from 1983 up to 2019. Martin achieved an AV rating from Martindale -Hubbell as the highest rated Medical Malpractice Trial Attorney honored for the highest level of professional excellence. Martin was voted and received the Best Attorney of the Year in Medical Malpractice, consecutively from 2000 to present, published in Palm Springs Life and in Best Lawyers.
Martin represented plaintiffs suing the VA and the US Government, full contingency. He never took a dime unless he won. Martin represented State of California Licensed Physician’s in Palm Springs, suing Local Med Mal Attorneys for Malicious Prosecution against his clients.
Martin had a 98 percent score winning his Trials. He was frequently awarded and collected punitive damages and sanctions from the Attorney’s he litigated against, for our local physicians in Palm Springs. These cases were our doctors being sued for Medical Malpractice and winning their lawsuits, and then being cancelled by their Med Mal Insurance, and fired from their jobs by Tenet where they worked at DRMC.
Martin was loved by all his clients, particularly the families of his clients who contracted AIDS and died from a blood transfusion sold to the hospitals by the American Red Cross. Martin Berman’s most famous Trial was aired on every News and primetime talk show on TV at the time of this victory; and told in the book And The Band Played On written by Randy Shilts. Shilts captured Martins closing argument in Trial against the AMRC, when the US Attorney told the jury the chance of contracting AIDS from a Red Cross blood transfusion was one in a million.
Martin put his expert witness the head of the CDC, Dr. Donald Francis on the witness stand. Dr. Frances had discovered Ebola and found the cure for Ebola. On direct questioning by Martin, Dr. Francis was asked the statistics on contracting AIDS from an AMRC blood transfusion. Dr. Francis testified the CDC showed the risk of contracting AIDS from AMRC blood, was one in fifty in San Francisco and one in one hundred in Los Angeles.
The book became the movie And The Band Played On with Alan Alda and a stellar cast. The movie is now an LGBT classic and can still be watched on Cable. Randy Shilts gifted Martin the first printing of his book fresh off the St. Martin’s Press, and he inscribed the book Marty…You surpass Helen of Troy, Forever Grateful Randy. Shilts died from AIDS.
Author Judith Reitman then contacted Martin and he contributed to her work writing her book Bad Blood Crisis in the American Red Cross. Jude as she went by, also gifted Marty the First Print off the Kensington Press inscribed: To Marty Berman, With many thanks for your help, Best of Luck, Jude Reitman 1996.
Martins tenacity in the courtroom held a win record for 98% in State and Federal Trials. Martin preferred to represent our Military and Veterans of War and their dependents, successfully suing negligent doctors working at the VA.
Martin contributed his win record in Trial to his youth playing tennis. He proclaimed the win was not because of his tennis skills, but in his warming up, and hitting balls one hour before his game. Martin believed that the tennis warmups trained him to take the time to prepare his cases properly before each Trial.
Martin was born and raised in Boyle Heights in E. LA, the son of a produce man who made ends meet, but not enough to pay for College. Martin attended Dorsey High School and graduated top of his class. He was awarded a Tennis Scholarship to USC for his undergraduate majoring in Chemical Engineering.
He was also chosen by the President of USC, to accompany Senator John F Kennedy on a tour of the USC Campus and conclude the tour with a private lunch. Martin was a registered Republican and he did not allow his party affiliation to cloud his admiration and respect for Senator Kennedy. John F. Kennedy exceeded his time allotted for his visit at USC, telling his security to just wait he was not ready to leave. The Senator was deeply engrossed in his tour guide asking Martin questions about his childhood and how he learned to play tennis and afford the clothes and rackets and at the same time was also hitting the books and was always top of his class? Martin shared with his wife Jacqueline, that he responded to Senator Kennedy’s question exclaiming he just knew he had to keep climbing in life, as a finish to anything would end his motivation. Senator Kennedy asked Martin to call him if he ever visited Massachusetts. Martin never “Party Affiliated” again, and from his meeting with JFK, he chose the person best qualified for the job. Martin voted for a democratic candidate, John F. Kennedy for President.
Martin graduated USC Summa Magna and won a scholarship to the Technical Institute on the East Coast. Martin attended the Institute and he was miserable living in below freezing temperatures and snow and he transferred back to California. He no sooner arrived back in LA, when he applied for and was hired by North America Aviation, to work in the Space Program.
He wrote about his life, in little pocket calendars, that Jacqueline discovered in the box stored away for 60 years labeled Rocketdyne. He never told Jacqueline he was a hero, and after he died his best childhood friend Dr. Sid Katz, who Marty was best man at Sid’s wedding, told Jacqueline the entire story that only Sid knew. Sid told Jacqueline, that Martin was never self-effacing, so naturally he kept his being a Hero to himself. Sid Katz’s story of Martin being a hero was confirmed in pages of the dates in time in pocket calendars given away by business’s in LA.
Martin used these pocket calendars to write in, as far back as the 1940’s. His Father Abe brought them home from produce dealers in LA for Martin to scribble in as he always drew on paper all over the house a picture of a Happy Face Man with hair standing up as if electrocuted.
Martin Rocket man Berman vowed the day that the Challenger took seven lives, that he would sue the US Government any way he could, representing people who are injured or had died because of the US Government’s greed. When a local reporter with Desert Sun wrote an article on the 40th Anniversary of The Challenger, he had interviewed and printed the photos of the last four men standing from the Space Program living in Palm Springs. Martin’s pictures usurped two pages as they were from the days at Rocketdyne. The reporter discovered Martin was the Trial lawyer depicted in the movie And The Band Played On, and he asked Martin about his helping 3rd world blood banks. Martin was sending all his research and instructions on how to test the blood for Hepatitis Non-A Non-B and Non-C, and AIDS on going, as there was and still is a 30-day window. He asked Martin why he paid out of his pocket to reproduce volumes’ and volumes of scientific research and send it to the 3rd World Blood Banks, when the CDC surely could share this information. Martin reminded the reporter of the battle between France and US CDC, over who was the first to discover AIDS. Martin explained there was never a handshake in sharing medical research between countries, as it was a greed driven pharmaceutical industry. Martin then replied, “This is my contribution to Society.” Martin had to deliberately lose a Trial for bad blood just to go up on Appeal. He won the Appeal in the 9 Circuit and the Berman Act changed the statute of limitations on when you can sue a blood bank if you have contracted HIV or AIDS. The current law stated that the child he represented only had three years from contamination to sue the blood bank. Martin Appealed to the high Court that HIV and or AIDS does not appear in three years and victims go five to seven years before being diagnosed. Martin Berman’s Appeal changed the law to allow seven years from DISCOVERY that you have HIV or AIDS, not from the date of contamination, allowing time to sue the Blood banks.
When the last Desert Sun reporter met with Martin for another front-page Desert Sun Article titled Aids Attorney Martin M. Berman still winning at 80, the reporter asked Martin why he didn’t live behind guard gates in the East Valley, as he really should enjoy his success? Martin was not put off by that question, and he replied “in my case, just in my case, anything beyond living comfortable for me and Jacqueline feels like we are boasting. “
The time has come for Martin aka Rocket man, the Mench to be acknowledged for his philanthropy here in the US, in Europe, in Israel, in Africa and too many places that did not have clean water or medicine or vaccinations. He always gave anonymously on a local level and he personally sponsored Stem Cell Research from Hadassah Hospital in Israel to come to Eisenhower Hospital in Rancho Mirage, as it was outlawed. President Obama approved stem cell in 2009 by Executive Order. Martin’s soft heart was for Police, Fire, and the local Boys and Girls Club. When PSPD Officers Gil Vega and Leslie Zerebny were shot and killed, there was a drive through fundraiser at PS City Hall. Martin asked Jacqueline to lend him all her stash and he would pay her back. Jacqueline handed five figures over to Martin for the families of Vega and Zerebny. Martin drove over to PS City Hall and he put the money that was in an unmarked envelope, into a volunteer’s collection plate. The donation must have been correlated to Martins little BMW sports car which was highly recognizable by PSPD. Martin always crashed his BMW car, average once a year, and the PSPD always showed up with the Fire Department. Martin spent a fortune at the body shop. To Martin’s shock, two PSPD showed up at his law office and thanked him from the Department, still grieving for Vega and Zerebny. Martin’s office had many employee’s and other lawyers that all shared the same receptionist. The receptionist asked another lawyer if Marty had done something wrong as cops were in his office with the door closed? The other lawyer told her he probably crashed his car again like last time when he was speeding and jumped the curb and knocked out a Time Warner pedestal. Martin lied and never repaid Jacqueline the cash he borrowed for the PSPD fundraiser!
Martins last words were in reply to Jacqueline lying next to him when she told Martin “I love you” and he was able to say back “I love you more”.
Jacqueline Berman has requested that in these tragic terrifying times, in memory of Martin M Berman, do not send material matter. Instead, please honor Martin M. Berman’s life, by picking up your phone and calling somebody you know that you have lost touch. Tell them you are thinking about them and you are there for them and make them smile.
Special thanks to Dr. William Longfellow who always took a call on his cell phone from all his patients, and who arranged for Martin to remain in his home with his wife until the end.
Martin gave his wife instructions that if there was ever a Legal problem after he was gone, she should call the two best Attorneys in Palm Springs, Martin Mueller and Walter Clark. Martin described these two lawyers as his friends, and the most ethical and caring lawyers that he knew in his 30 years career practicing law in C/Valley.
Martin leaves behind his adored wife Jacqueline, and his three sons by his first marriage, Adam Berman in SF, Cary Berman and Mark Berman in LA, his stepdaughter he raised, Tamar Brett Mercier of Palm Springs and his favorite person on the planet… whom he loved to the Heavens and back as they used to say to each other…his little grandson Christian Alexander Mercier.
Memorial will be held June 22nd, Maui Hawaii, Kaanapali Shores. This is the island that has been their favorite place and frequent hideaway two to three times a year since 1979. The gathering will be held on the grounds of the Sheraton Kaanapali, in hope that Covid has been eradicated enough that it will be safe to travel.
Lastly, it is Jacqueline’s wish that all who read Martin M Berman’s journey in this Life…Wear your masks, and Hold Your Loved Ones Tight.