Sharply divided Supreme Court suspends Goldenrod attorney over petty theft plea

By Karen Kidd | Feb 3, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — Goldenrod attorney Jacqueline Marie Kinsella has been suspended following a sharply split Dec. 20 Florida Supreme Court opinion over her plea to a petty theft charge, according to a recent announcement by the Florida Bar.

In its 11-page opinion, the state Supreme Court suspended Kinsella for three years over her September 2016 plea. Kinsella had been arrested the previous May, less than three months after she was admitted to the bar in Florida, and charged with grand theft for allegedly stealing from cash registers at the department store where she worked as a non-attorney, according to the state bar's initial brief.

"Kinsella pleaded no contest to a first-degree misdemeanor charge of petty theft and the remaining charges were dismissed," the state bar said in its Jan. 31 announcement of the discipline and the Supreme Court's opinion. "Adjudication of guilt was withheld and Kinsella was placed on probation for 12 months under the supervision of the Department of Corrections."

Kinsella admitted to the theft, saying she suffered persistent financial debt problems, according to the state bar's brief.

Kinsella was indefinitely suspended by the Supreme Court almost a year ago, which meant her latest suspension was effective immediately.

Florida court orders are not final until time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion would not have altered the effective date of Kinsella's suspension.

Justices Ricky Polston, Jorge Labarga, Alan Lawson and now former Justice Peggy Quince concurred in the opinion. Chief Justice Charles T. Canady and now former justices R. Fred Lewis and Barbara Joan Pariente dissented.

Pariente said she would have imposed the 91-day suspension sought by the state bar. In her dissent, Pariente noted the "seven mitigating factors" in the case included Kinsella's remorse and her "timely good faith effort to make restitution," as well as Kinsella "full and free disclosure" and "cooperative attitude" in the state bar's investigation.

"In addition, she has taken substantial steps to avoid problems in the future," Pariente wrote.

Canady and Lewis would have disbarred Kinsella, according to their dissents.

"There is no reason to believe that a lawyer who has betrayed her employer by stealing from the employer will not betray her clients by stealing from them," Canady wrote in his dissent. "There should be no place for thieves in The Florida Bar."

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