Attorney Profiles

Steve Sumner Headshot

Steve Sumner, Partner

Experience

Steve Sumner was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He graduated from Hillcrest High School in Dallas, Texas. Upon graduation from high school, Steve signed a professional baseball contract to be a pitcher with the Houston Astros. For the next four years, Steve pitched for the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, and Washington Senators. During his off seasons, he would attend college at North Texas State University that has since been named The University of North Texas. His baseball career was shortened due to a shoulder injury which allowed him to return to college on a full time basis and then to law school.

In 1969, Steve was married to Nancy Victor and they have just celebrated their 40th anniversary. Steve and Nancy have two sons, Justin and Grant, who both graduated from the University of Arkansas with business administration degrees. Grant is pursuing a career in commercial real estate in Dallas and is a Vice President at Peloton Realty Co. Justin graduated from Whittier Law School in California and is a licensed attorney in the State of Texas and practicing law at Sumner, Schick & Pace law firm.

Steve graduated from North Texas State University in 1972 with a BBA in business administration and finance. Steve and Nancy then moved to Houston where Steve attended South Texas College of Law and worked as a law clerk for the law firm of Talbert Giessel & Stone during his law school years. Steve graduated from South Texas College of Law with a juris doctorate degree in 1975 and passed the Texas State Bar and was licensed to practice law in the same year.

After graduation from law school, Steve and Nancy returned to Dallas where he joined the law firm of Burelson, Pate & Gibson. Initially, Steve’s area of specialty was civil litigation. In the fall of 1976, Phil Burleson was retained to represent Mr. Thomas Cullen Davis who had been charged with capital murder in Fort Worth. Steve became a member of the Cullen Davis defense team that was ultimately led by Mr. Richard “Racehorse” Haynes from Houston. Steve’s primary responsibilities were to direct and coordinate the investigation and to be one of the four trial lawyers who successfully defended Cullen Davis of the capital murder charges. In 1978, Cullen Davis was recharged with solicitation of capital murder and Steve again headed the investigation and became one of the four trial lawyers. Mr. Davis was again acquitted after the third six month, very high profile, criminal trial. There have been five books written about the Davis trial which chronicled Steve’s work on the case. (See Texas v. Davis by Mike Cochran, Blood Will Tell by Gary Cartwright) Also, there has been a made for television movie and an hour long feature on the A&E Criminal Justice series about the Davis case.

It was during those early years of Steve’s career that he was fortunate to have virtually served an apprenticeship under Mr. Phil Burleson and Mr. Racehorse Haynes. As a result, he became a successful trial attorney and was called upon to pass on his knowledge and experience through articles and speeches to his fellow members of the bar. Steve authored an article entitled “Cross-Examination of Police Officers in Driving While Intoxicated and Involuntary Manslaughter Cases”. He spoke to numerous bar associations on the topic and the article has twice been the cover article of The Voice, a magazine published by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Subsequent to the Cullen Davis trials, the notoriety and expertise Steve gained from directing and coordinating the Cullen Davis investigations, as well as being one of the trial attorneys, caused Steve to be hired to represent a number of large companies to investigate and litigate their full array of business, commercial, and unfair competition needs. Specifically, Steve began representing businesses in areas of trade secret protection, anti-trust litigation, internal embezzlement and kick back investigations wherein there would be the need for investigation and subsequent litigation. To this day, Steve continues to represent companies in all types of business and commercial disputes and draws upon his knowledge and expertise he gained from conducting investigations during his entire career.

By the mid 1980’s, Steve had tried numerous criminal and civil cases. He was hired as lead trial counsel for the World Boxing Counsel to bring a libel/slander lawsuit against Howard Cosell and the New York Post in Federal Court in New York City. Further, he was hired to travel to Los Angeles, California to represent Ricky Kyle who had been charged with murdering his father. After two trials, and fifteen months in the court room, Ricky Kyle was successfully defended and a book was written about the case called Ulterior Motives by Suzanne Finstead and featured on the Dominck Dunne Hour in 2007.

By the late 1980’s, Steve returned from California and replaced Racehorse Haynes as lead counsel in the defense of Mr. Cullen Davis in his still pending civil litigation. Mr. Davis was the defendant in multi-million dollar wrongful death lawsuits alleging that he had been the murderer back in 1976. After a very high profile, and lengthy jury trial in Fort Worth, Texas, the jury was unable to reach a verdict which was a resounding victory for the defense. The civil trial was chronicled in Texas v. Davis by Mike Cochran, paperback reprint.

During the early 1990’s, Steve continued to represent numerous businesses and corporations in all areas of civil litigation, as well as, white collar criminal litigation. He successfully tried an abusive tax shelter case which resulted in acquittals in federal court and, to this day, was the only case the federal government’s abusive tax shelter task force lost.

In 1993, Steve was retained to represent Ms. Barbara Piotrowski. Ms. Piotrowski’s case had been chronicled in the book Sleeping with the Devil by Suzanne Finstead. Steve was Ms. Piotrowski’s lead trial attorney in a civil rights law suit that he brought against the City of Houston which culminated in a very high profile trial in federal court in Houston, Texas in 1998. The jury awarded a verdict of $38 million to Ms. Piotrowski. There was a made for television movie called Sleeping with the Devil made about the case.

More recently, Steve was retained to represent Amanda Dealey as lead counsel in the Dealey v. Mayhew wrongful death case that was tried to a jury in March 2002 through April 2002. The trial was featured live daily, for over a month, on national television on the program Court TV. The jury awarded Steve’s client $26 million and found that Ms. Dealey’s brother had murdered their father who had been the mayor of Sunnyvale, Texas. The case has been further featured on the television program Inside Edition, as well as on the television program 20/20. The case was affirmed on appeal by the Texas Court of Civil Appeals and was the largest verdict affirmed in Texas in 2003.

Currently, Steve and his partners have represented corporate clients in cases all over the country where the company has both criminal and civil exposure. Specifically, where there is potential fraud involved in the administration of government contracts and qui tam litigation. This very complex and delicate area of practice involves dual negotiations with both plaintiff’s attorneys and the Department of Justice simultaneously.

As a result of Steve’s having directed and coordinated major internal corporate investigations in which companies had criminal exposure, he was called upon to speak at corporate legal seminars; consequently, he authored a paper entitled “Conducting an Investigation: Process and Pitfalls – Internal Corporate Investigations of Employee Misconduct with Civil and Criminal Exposure.”

Steve continues to utilize the wisdom and experience gained from the trials and cases cited above in representing corporate clients in their full array of complex litigation needs. It is his goal and desire, and the goal and desire of Sumner, Schick and Pace, to continue to provide the highest quality litigation services in the future.

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