News

ABA Recommendations Included in the 'Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017'

The American Bar Association won hard-fought victories on key tax issues affecting the legal profession in the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017,” the comprehensive tax reform legislation that President Donald Trump recently signed.

While not all ABA recommendations were incorporated into the final legislation, these issues were favorable for lawyers and law firms:

  • Mandatory Accrual Accounting for Law Firms. Fortunately, ABA-opposed mandatory accrual accounting proposals were not included in the final bill. Had these proposals been included, they would have required many law firms to switch from cash to accrual accounting and pay taxes on “phantom income” long before it is received from clients. The ABA worked with 30 state and local bars, dozens of law firms, and other leaders for over four years to protect the legal profession from these harmful provisions.
  • Tax Relief for Pass-Through Entities. Individual owners of pass-through entities — including law firms and other professional service businesses, up to certain income thresholds — will be allowed to deduct 20 percent of the “qualified business income” they receive from the entity. Although the ABA did not endorse this or any other specific tax reductions contained in the bill, the ABA worked to ensure that law firms received the same benefits as other pass-through businesses.
  • Student Loan Interest Tax Deduction. The existing deduction is retained in the final legislation, as requested by the ABA in a letter to House and Senate leaders.
  • Deduction of Upfront Litigation Expenses. In an important victory for lawyers who handle contingency fee lawsuits in the 9th Circuit, the final legislation confirms the cash accounting system for plaintiff firms by allowing lawsuit-related expenses to be deducted when they are incurred. In addition to protecting the legal profession from adverse legislation, advocacy on the tax reform bill also helped build stronger ties with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and other professional associations, which can now carry over to other issues of mutual interest.

The ABA will continue to fight for the legal profession and lawyers around the country.

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ABA YLD 2018-2019 Leadership Appointment Process is Open

ABA Appointments

The American Bar Association's YLD 2018-19 Leadership Appointment application process is open! Applications are being accepted now. The deadline to apply is Feb. 15.

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ABA Ethics Opinion: Judges Using Internet to Search for Facts Poses Ethical Problems

A new American Bar Association ethics opinion finds that while judges may conduct legal research online for cases not cited by the parties, using the internet to find facts concerning the parties or subject matter of a case poses ethical problems, the ABA Journal reports. Finding “adjudicative facts” about a case is already generally banned by the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct, but an exception allows judges to go online for facts that are subject to judicial notice because they are generally known and not subject to reasonable dispute. The opinion also offers guidelines for judges to conduct independent factual research.
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ABA President Defends Judicial Nominee Ratings After GOP Senators Claim Bias

After Republican senators accused the American Bar Association of “liberal bias” in its ratings of federal judicial nominees, ABA President Hilarie Bass is defending the ratings, the ABA Journal reports. Bass said that the ABA is a nonpartisan organization and the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary “has thoroughly vetted thousands of nominees using a fair and nonpartisan process that no other organization can match.” The controversy stems from the ABA rating Nebraska lawyer Leonard Steven Grasz as “not qualified.” Committee chair Pamela Bresnahan argued that the committee had only rated four out of 53 judicial nominees as “not qualified” all year, and added that the ratings are not about personal beliefs but rather about what data is derived from peer reviews.
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ABA Certifies Tennessee’s Tarpley to House of Delegates

The American Bar Association Board of Elections was polled via email on Nov. 7 and certified Tennessee attorney John R. Tarpley as the Tennessee State Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates.  The term for this position commences immediately and will expire at the conclusion of the 2019 Annual Meeting. Also certified were Wendell G. Large of Maine and Tracy A. Giles of Virginia.
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Constitution Day Celebrates 230th Anniversary of Signing

Sunday was Constitution Day, which commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by 39 men on Sept. 17, 1787. American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass discusses the significance of Constitution Day 2017 and of this blueprint for our American government in this video. The page includes resources and information about the celebration and the document itself.

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ABA ‘Disappointed’ by Arpaio Pardon

The American Bar Association has expressed disappointment that a pardon was granted to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order to cease racial profiling practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. “Granting Arpaio an expedited pardon sends the wrong message to the public,” said ABA President Hilarie Bass via prepared statement, adding that an individual's own interpretation of justice "cannot be swapped for the rule of law."
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Memphis Attorney Elected to ABA Board of Governors

Randall D. Noel, an attorney in Butler Snow’s Memphis office and former Tennessee Bar Association president, has been elected to the American Bar Association’s Board of Governors. The 44-member Board oversees operation of the ABA and is authorized to speak and act for the association when its House of Delegates is not in session. Noel works in civil trial practice with an emphasis on commercial, banking, antitrust, data security and products liability matters.
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ABA House Supports Ban on Mandatory Minimums

The American Bar Association House of Delegates this week approved a resolution backing a ban on mandatory minimum sentences, the ABA Journal reports. The resolution opposes mandatory minimums in any criminal case and calls on Congress and state legislatures to repeal laws requiring them. Kevin Curtin of the Massachusetts Bar Association told the House that mandatory minimums have produced troubling race-based inequities.
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New ABA President Sworn In, Emphasizes Lawyers’ Role in Protecting Democracy

New American Bar Association President Hilarie Bass was sworn in this week at the ABA annual meeting in New York City, and in one of her first acts, she touted the role of lawyers in protecting American democracy. “Our democracy functions best when there are lawyers prepared to protect it,” Bass said while speaking to the ABA House on Tuesday. The ABA Journal reports that Bass elaborated on a new ABA initiative called ABA Legal Fact Check, which is designed to counteract “alternative news and fake facts.” When incorrect assertions about the law are being made, ABA Legal Fact Check will post a press release with the truth.
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ABA House Urges Changes Affecting Undocumented Immigrants

During the American Bar Association Annual Meeting in New York City, the ABA House adopted policies urging Congress to add courthouses to the “sensitive locations” list for immigration enforcement and licensing groups to admit to the bar undocumented law school graduates under certain circumstances. Resolution 108, proposed by the ABA Law Student Division and backed by the ABA YLD, recommended that undocumented law grads be admitted to the bar if they are “seeking legal status.” Resolution 10C urges Congress to add courthouses to the list of “sensitive locations,” which currently include places like schools, healthcare facilities and places of worship, as off-limits to immigration enforcement agents.
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ABA President Condemns Charlottesville Violence

American Bar Association President Linda Klein responded yesterday to weekend violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one protester and two officers dead. “The ABA knows the principles that govern our country – respect for the rule of law, tolerance for the beliefs and freedoms of others, and a deep dedication to uphold the Constitution – are strong and will prevail over the forces of hate and racism," she said.
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TBA Honors Contributions of Lewis, Ramsaur at N.Y. Events

The Tennessee Bar Association honored two Tennessee lawyers with receptions this weekend at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York. Tennessee lawyers and bar leaders from across the country came together Friday to recognize the contributions of TBA Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur, while on Saturday Memphis attorney and former TBA President Buck Lewis was honored for his many contributions to the profession, including his long commitment to access to justice and his leadership in development of online pro bono legal services. That effort was launched in Tennessee with the assistance of Baker Donelson and now has been replicated in 42 states across the country. The University of Tennessee College of Law, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Belmont University College of Law and Vanderbilt University Law School joined with the TBA in hosting the event.

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TBA to Honor 2 Tennessee Lawyers During ABA Meeting

The Tennessee Bar Association will be honoring two Tennessee lawyers with receptions this weekend at the ABA Annual Meeting in New York. On Friday, the TBA and Baker Donelson will honor TBA Executive Director Emeritus Allan Ramsaur, and on Saturday, Memphis attorney and former TBA President Buck Lewis will be honored at a reception hosted jointly by the TBA and the University of Tennessee College of Law, the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, Belmont University College of Law and Vanderbilt University Law School. For information about either of the events, contact Karen Belcher at the TBA.

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Judge Donald to Receive ABA Women Lawyers of Achievement Honor

Judge Bernice Bouie Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Memphis will receive the American Bar Association’s 2017 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. Donald will receive the award during the ABA Annual Meeting in New York, alongside four others. “We are honored to recognize this spectacular group of women. We applaud their achievements, knowing that their efforts will inspire a new generation of women lawyers,” said Michele Coleman Mayes, the chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. The award, whose previous recipients include U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, honors outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence in their area of specialty and have actively paved the way to success for others.

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Former ABA President A.P. Carlton Dies

Former American Bar Association President Alfred P. (A.P.) Carlton died today. Carlton served from 2002 to 2003, during which he focused on reforming corporate governance and promoted the rule of law in Iraq. His most prominent advocacy, however, was his fight for judicial independence: he chaired the ABA’s Standing Committee on Judicial Independence and created the association’s Commission on the 21st Century Judiciary. Carlton was also a member of a number of community organizations and civic groups, both nationally and in his home state of North Carolina.
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TBA Joins Efforts to Save LSC

Details of the Trump administration budget have generated strong opposition to the proposed elimination of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The Tennessee Bar Association is mobilizing to save legal aid services by encouraging Tennessee representatives in Congress and the White House to restore LSC funding. Learn more about the threat to LSC and show your support for vital legal aid programs via TBAImpact. National advocacy groups including The Shriver Center, Pro Bono Institute and National Legal Aid & Defender Association have joined in efforts to mobilize support for LSC. The Shriver Center notes historic bipartisan support for LSC, and its role as a “barometer for our country’s commitment to supporting basic fairness and access to equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of one’s income.”

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TBA President Speaks Out on Judicial Independence

“A strong Judiciary is essential to a functioning democracy,” writes TBA President Jason Long in the March Tennessee Bar Journal. “Our Judiciary is only strong when it is credible and independent. Reckless criticism of the courts and over-politicizing the selection process of our judges will undermine those goals. Lawyers are the first and best guardians of our courts.” Other comments from bar leaders are featured on the American Bar Association's Judicial Independence resource page, where the legal community has responded to recent attacks on the independence of the judiciary. The new Journal is online.

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ABA Report Provides Updates on Legislation

The American Bar Association’s first Washington Letter chart for 2017 has been released and has updates on bills in Congress that the ABA has championed or opposed during the previous congressional session. Updates include information regarding the ABA’s support of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the ABA’s support of adequate funding for the Legal Services Corporation. Read the full chart here.
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Memphis Judge Moderates ABA Panel on Batson Decision

Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit moderated a panel reviewing the 30 years of the Batson v. Kentucky decision of 1986. It ruled that a prosecutor’s exercise of race-based peremptory challenges to jurors violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The panelists at the ABA Midyear Meeting event called the ruling a “tremendous failure,” and said that lawyers need to be trained on how to choose a jury without excluding due to race. Read more at the ABA website.
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Independence of Judiciary Not Up for Negotiation, ABA President Says

American Bar Association President Linda Klein today called on lawyers to defend the rule of law despite comments against the judiciary coming from the U.S. executive branch, according to the ABA Journal. “Let us be clear. The independence of the judiciary is not up for negotiation,” Klein said in an address to the ABA House of Delegates. The House later adopted a resolution urging the U.S. government to withdraw the Executive Order barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Klein also announced the launch of an online portal to coordinate efforts of lawyers helping immigrants affected by the ban.
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Neil Gorsuch Selected as SCOTUS Nominee

Judge Neil Gorsuch, from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch, considered a reliable conservative, is a former Washington, D.C. lawyer educated at Harvard and Oxford. Gorsuch may face challenges to his confirmation, however, as Congressional Democrats consider seeking reprisal after Republicans blocked Obama nominee Merrick Garland last year, according to the New York Times. The American Bar Association issued a response to the pick, which can be read here.
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ABA Section of Antitrust Law Releases Presidential Transition Report

The American Bar Association Section of Antitrust Law released its Presidential Transition Report today, outlining current state and federal antitrust and consumer protection law and policy, as well as recommendations for ways the Trump administration might consider strengthening policy and enforcement. The report includes calls for more transparency and consistency in investigations, concern about the competitive effects of emerging financial regulations, criticism of civil-penalty assessments and support for the importance of international engagement. 
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$5M Suit Filed Against Charlotte Law School

Two students filed a $5 million class action lawsuit last week against the Charlotte School of Law and its parent company Infilaw, the ABA Journal reports. The complaint accuses the law school of engaging in misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and constructive fraud. The filing follows the U.S. Department of Education's decision to cut off the school’s federal student aid for allegedly misleading current and prospective students about its ABA accreditation status.

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ABA Releases Guide to Issues in Assisted Reproduction

The American Bar Association (ABA) has released a guide to the legal and medical issues related to assisted reproduction. “The ABA Consumer Guide to Assisted Reproduction” is designed to educate consumers about the processes involved in choosing medical providers, legal representatives and other key players throughout the assisted reproduction process. The book provides a critical understanding of the protocols to enter into appropriate legal contracts while addressing the unique issues that may arise pre-and post-birth.

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