LOS ANGELES — The State Bar Court of California ruled to place Severn, Maryland, attorney Tonya Ronee Summerville on one year of probation.
The 36-year-old attorney, who was admitted to the State Bar in 2005 after graduating from George Washington Law School, failed to meet the minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) hours to keep her license in good standing in California.
According to court documents, Summerville, under penalty of perjury, claimed that on June 30, 2014, she had completed the necessary 25 hours during the compliance period of Feb. 1, 2011, to Jan. 31, 2014. The attorney had only completed six hours at the time of statement that were eligible in California.
Summerville had completed 23 hours for her employer in Maryland and believed the hours would transfer to California. They did not, and the State Bar found her to be negligent in not verifying whether the hours would comply. The attorney was notified that she would undergo an MCLE audit on July 7, 2014, and complete the remaining hours needed by Oct. 20, 2014.
The State Bar took four mitigating factors into consideration when determining discipline for Summerville. The attorney has no prior record of discipline. The lack of previous misconduct indicated that future issues were unlikely to occur. In addition, Summerville provided the State Bar with nine character witnesses to testify on her behalf. The witnesses included a pediatric dentist, a retired police sergeant, a biomedical engineer and a public health specialist. Two family members wrote letters attesting to Summerville’s good character, and although they were given consideration, they were weighted less than the remaining seven witnesses.
Lastly, Summerville entered into a pre-filing stipulation with the State Bar, saving the courts time and resources. By acknowledging her misconduct, the attorney garnered mitigation. Summerville’s remorse and acceptance of wrongdoing were reviewed by the State Bar and counted as a mitigating circumstance.
During the attorney’s one-year probation, Summerville must submit quarterly reports for all of her business dealings to the Office of Probation. In addition, any updates to her personal or professional situations will also need to be provided to the office within 10 business days.
Summerville must take and pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). Failure to pass the MPRE or adhere to any of the terms of her probation will result in a one year suspension without hearing. Summerville also must participate in ethics school, although the hours will not count toward her required MCLE hours for the next compliance period.
The attorney will be responsible for covering all court costs, which at the time of sentencing totaled $3,139. The costs are subject to increase, in which case Summerville will need to pay the additional fees.
The California State Bar was established in 1927 by the state’s legislature and is governed by 19 trustees. The State Bar Court added appointed full-time judges in 1989. Court documents for all State Bar Court of California cases can be located online at calbar.ca.gov.