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John S. Berry, Sr.

Founder, Husband, Grandfather, Veteran, Author, Sherlock Holmes Scholar, Attorney at Berry Law since 1965

Founding attorney John Stevens Berry (JS or JSB, Steve to old friends) is a legend. In addition to a storied law career that featured high profile court appearances in 24 states and two foreign countries, JSB is also known as a decorated Vietnam Veteran and a distinguished author.

After being commissioned in the Infantry and earning his Juris Doctorate from Northwestern University, he became a JAG and served as the chief defense counsel for Vietnam’s largest general court jurisdiction. His most famous case during that time, referred to as “The Green Beret Affair,” made national headlines and is still considered a defining moment for military criminal justice in the United States. His memoir about the case, Those Gallant Men: On Trial in Vietnam, received national recognition and continues to be popular among historians and scholars. After returning to civilian life, JSB briefly practiced in the New York City office of Henry Rothblatt, which served as the defense counsel in a variety of high-profile cases, including representing The Grateful Dead, the Watergate plumbers, and others.

Ready to build his own legacy, JSB started the firm that would eventually become known as Berry Law, and was engaged to work on a number of major international cases, including defending a US Navy Sailor during the largest drug bust in Japan’s history. JSB serves as Berry Law’s ‘Of Counsel’ and has helped thousands of Americans and Veterans take their lives back from difficult situations.

JSB founded Berry Law with the same principles he championed in Vietnam, to fearlessly represent his fellow Veterans and uphold justice and liberty for every American. For his diligent work ethic, passion for justice, and incredible legal skill, he is considered one of the best attorneys in the U.S. and holds an AV Preeminent Rating — the highest possible peer rating standard — from Martindale-Hubbell. He also shares his knowledge by conducting seminars for practicing lawyers and speaking at universities across the country after having transferred command of the firm to his son, John Berry, Jr., who leads Berry Law with the same passion for justice his father has.

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John's Statistics

56 Years Practicing
3 Countries He’s Practiced In
10 Years of Military Service
Captain (Army) Military Rank
“The best way to support and defend the Constitution of the United States is through zealously defending the constitutional rights of each individual client.” — John Stevens Berry, Sr.

Accolades, Accomplishments, and Legacy

JSB has a history of accomplishment that stretches beyond his career as an attorney. After graduating from the New Mexico Military Institute in 1956, he attended Stanford University for his bachelor’s degree in English. There, he learned from a legendary roster of American authors and poets and won awards from the Academy of American Poets in 1958 and 1959. In 1973, he published a book of his poems called The Darkness of Snow. He published Those Gallant Men: On Trial in Vietnam, in 1984, and authored a portion of Utilizing Forensic Science in Criminal Cases in 2011. John is also famous for co-authoring The Twelfth Victim: The Innocence of Caril Ann Fugate in the Starkweather Murder Rampage (2014), in which he presented the case for 14-year-old Caril Ann Fugate’s legal innocence for her part in the most prolific murder case in Nebraskan history. John was a featured author in the Ames Reading Series program in May 1988 and October 2014 and was honored by the Military Book Club in 1984 for his memoir on the Green Beret Affair.

John was Class Poet at Stanford University, received his law degree from Northwestern University School of Law, and also completed programs at the University of Paris Sorbonne, the Infantry Officers School, and the Army JAG school.

During his military career, John received high honors as a Captain in Vietnam, both for his service in combat and for serving as defense counsel for eight General Court Martial jurisdictions, including II Field Force Vietnam. He traveled the length and breadth of the country during his service, spending time in all four areas of operations tactical zones, from the delta to the DMZ, from the sea to the Cambodian border. He served with allied forces from Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, and Australia in addition to meeting with village chiefs in unsecured locations. He completed a full tour, then returned twice on temporary duty assignments. In addition to the Bronze Star and other decorations, he received the Vietnamese Medal of Honor (Gold) and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (with Palm).  He was also awarded the Defender of The Forces trophy from the Green Berets.

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In the civilian world, he received the FBI Award for Service in the Public Interest for his training on cross examinations, and the Helping Hand award from MAD DADS. JSB has also been recognized for his pro bono work for important causes, including helping fellow Veterans struggling with PTSD, working with the Native American Rights Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Nebraska Civil Liberties Union.

JSB has long been a noted leader in Nebraska’s legal community.  He was asked to be the full-time host of Lincoln’s largest rush-hour radio program to use his extensive legal knowledge to craft insightful analysis of current events, hosting The John Stevens Berry Show on KLIN and KZUM from 1997 to 2001. He also previously served as president of the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association and the Robert Van Pelt Inns of Court. Due to his significant positive contributions to the community and the state of Nebraska, Governor Ben Nelson declared August 1, 1997 to be John Stevens Berry Day in Nebraska.

In 2018, JSB was inducted into the New Mexico Military Institute Hall of Fame for his vast list of accomplishments. His legacy of excellence propels Berry Law to live up to its founder’s reputation and continue his mission of bringing Veterans and civilians the best legal aid in America.

Family, Detective Stories, and Lifelong Passions

Even after passing the helm of Berry Law to his son, JSB is still an active member of the community and loves hosting get-togethers with his family and friends.  A great orator and storyteller, he is known to hold court and entertain large groups with his stories, recitations of poems, and his quick wit.

He lives with his wife of nearly 50 years, Margaret, an accomplished artist whose paintings have been shown at exhibitions throughout the U.S. He is immensely proud of his three sons, John, Chris, and Rory—all Veterans—and his daughter, Laura, a TV journalist. He also enjoys teaching skills to his grandchildren, including competitive swimming (JSB swam in 5 states and two countries when he was younger, setting a few records along the way) and Judo (he was a member of the Northern California Black Belt Judo Association).

When he’s not enjoying the company of his children and 7 grandchildren, JSB can be found reading mystery and detective books, often rereading a Sherlock Holmes story. As a lifelong fan of Sherlock Holmes, JSB remains an active member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a prestigious international literary society honoring Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his works. He is one of 700 individuals to receive the Shilling Award from the organization.

JSB is still active in the firm and the broader legal community and is a member of the Melvin Belli Society and a fellow on the American Board of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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John's Credentials

Education

  • Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois
    • J.D. – 1965
  • Stanford University
    • B.A. – 1960

Areas of Practice

  • Veterans Appeals
  • Criminal Defense
  • Injury Law
  • Federal Appeals

Bar Admissions

  • Nebraska, 1965
  • U.S. District Court District of Nebraska, 1965
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, 1970
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit, 1974
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1979
  • U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals, 1996

Published Works

  • Those Gallant Men: On Trial in Vietnam, Presidio Press, 1984
  • The Twelfth Victim: The Innocence of Caril Fugate, Addicus Books, Inc 2014

Honors and Awards

  • Recipient: Bronze Star, Vietnamese Medal of Honor First Class (Gold)
  • Recipient: Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (with Palm)
  • Recipient: FBI Award for Service in the Public Interest
  • Fellow, American Board of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Those Gallant Men: ON Trial in Vietnam, Military Book Club Award Winner

Professional Associations & Memberships

  • Nebraska State and Federal Bar Associations, Veterans’ Law Section, Member
  • Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys, Member
  • Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorney Association, President, 1991 – 1992
  • Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorney Association, Chairman, Committee on Expert Witnesses and Forensic Sciences, 1985 – 1989
  • American Association for Justice, Member
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Member
  • California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Member
  • American Academy of Forensic Science, Member
  • National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates, Member
  • Robert Van Pelt Chapter, Inns of Court, Member, Executive Board of Directors, 1990 – 1993
  • Robert Van Pelt Chapter, Inns of Court, President, 1990 – 1993

Notable Positions

  • Military Capt. JAGC, Chief Defense Counsel, II Field Force, Vietnam, 1968 – 1969
  • Military Capt. JAGC, The Presidio, San Francisco, 1969 – 1970
  • Franklin Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature, Special Counsel, 1990
  • Henry B. Rothblatt Offices in New York, 1970 – 1971

Client Perspective

star rating

John and his colleagues treated me like family and we're available any time I had questions or needed anything. I couldn't ask for more out of a law firm. My case was handled swiftly and professionally with the best possible outcome.

- John Mandril (Client), Review on Google 7/5/19
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6940 O St, Suite 400
Lincoln, NE 68510
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