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Sunday, December 15, 2019

Veteran Jacksonville attorney suspended following alleged trust account irregularities

Discipline

By Karen Kidd | Dec 2, 2019

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TALLAHASSEE (Florida Record) — Longtime Jacksonville attorney Cynthia Leigh Nichols has been suspended following an Oct. 31 Florida Supreme Court order, in part over allegations arising from trust fund irregularities, according to a recent announcement by The Florida Bar.

"An investigation of two insufficient funds notices for Nichols' trust account found only technical violations of the [professional conduct] rules, with no intent to defraud or disadvantage clients," the state bar said in its Nov. 26 announcement of the discipline and the state Supreme Court's order. "Additionally, Nichols served as ward for a client and that client’s jewelry was stolen by Nichols' roommate, who also took care of the ward."

Nichols was unaware of her roommate's theft when it occurred but reported it when it was discovered, the announcement said.

In its two-page order, the Supreme Court approved the uncontested referee's report filed in the matter before suspending Nichols for 90 days and ordered her to pay a little more than $9,665 in costs.

Nichols' suspension was effective 30 days from the date of the court's order to allow her time to close out her practice and protect her existing clients' interests, according to the court's order. Once her suspension is complete, Nichols faces three years' conditional probation under the terms and conditions set forth in the referee's report and consent judgment she reached with the state bar, according to the court's order. The judgment includes Nichols' conditional guilty plea.

Florida court orders are not final until time to file a rehearing motion expires. Filing such a motion does not alter the effective date of Nichols's suspension.

Nichols was admitted to the bar in Florida on Nov. 10, 1981, according to her profile at the state bar website. No prior discipline before the state bar is listed on her bar profile.

Terms of her probation include hiring a CPA to review her trust account records on a monthly basis, according to the consent judgment.

Nichols "candidly admitted that she had failed to keep her trust account in strict compliance with Florida Bar rules and that her negligent bookkeeping resulted in the overdraft," the consent judgment said.

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