Steve Martini, ’74, was a journalist and remains a lawyer and novelist. Martini has published 17 legal novels.
He came to Sacramento in July 1970 from Los Angeles as the Capitol correspondent and bureau chief for the Los Angeles Daily Journal. He began law school at McGeorge School of Law that same year in the evening division, working for the newspaper in the daytime and studying law at night. It was in the halcyon times of Gordon Schaber as dean of the law school with professors like Anthony M. Kennedy — later Justice Kennedy of the United States Supreme Court — from whom Martini took Constitutional Law, Claude Rohwer who taught Contracts, and the always humorous Charles Luther from whom Martini studied Torts.
In 1987, Martini published his first novel “The Simeon Chamber.” It was a rollicking mystery, the story of a search for historic treasure that ranged from San Quentin to the Hearst property at San Simeon. The story was centered in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Martini was born and lived in the love of a large extended family until the age of 10 when his mother, father and sister Judith moved to Southern California. His novels always drew from his experiences, sometimes stories told to him in his youth. All of them centered around the law. All of the protagonists in his stories are lawyers. Two of his novels — “Undue Influence” and “The Judge” — were produced and broadcast as national network miniseries.
In 1992, Martini published his second novel “Compelling Evidence” and the one that propelled him onto the New York Times bestsellers list. It was the story of a murder trial set in Capitol City, a thinly veiled Sacramento and drew color from the author’s experiences as a lawyer in that city. The novel gave birth to the fictional attorney Paul Madriani and spawned the Madriani Series. There followed 15 more novels, all of which were bestsellers many of them published in languages around the world.
Martini wrote news and practiced law, worked for state government and lobbied in and around Sacramento for 22 years, between 1970 and 1992. He drew the soul for his stories from there and has retained lifelong friendships in Sacramento including fellow lawyer, novelist, and McGeorge School of Law alumnnus William Wood, ’76; author and novelist John Lescroart, Richard Herman, Dale Brown, and Karen Kijewski; Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Tom Cecil, ’75; and Sacramento lawyers Kip Solinsky and Dennis Higgins, all longtime friends.
In later years, Martini would sometimes visit the home of his former employer and law associate, Mel Coben, once of the law firm, Coben, Cooper & Zilaff. Mel and Nancy Coben lived in a large home along the Sacramento River. There, he often found Gordon Schaber — then retired from McGeorge — sitting with Coben, (Mel and Gordon were good friends), quietly talking, hoisting a few cocktails and remembering the times when Sacramento was a quiet agrarian town, and McGeorge was a dream in the making, yet to be fully realized.
Throughout 2024, the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law will celebrate members of its vast alumni network in honor of the school’s 100-year anniversary. This post is the first in a series highlighting 100 exceptional McGeorge School of Law alumni.
Stay tuned for more blog posts as we celebrate the law school’s centennial anniversary.