SSA’s Study on National Benefit Offset Policy Completed

A nine-year study for the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding a potential national policy that pays partial disability benefits to beneficiaries of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program when earnings exceed SSA’s substantial gainful activity level has concluded, Cision PRWeb reports. Current law for SSDI recipients includes losing all SSDI benefits after 12 months of substantial earnings. In the $127 million Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) study, nearly one million disability recipients were sampled. Instead of experiencing a sudden loss of benefits, beneficiaries received reduced benefits by $1 for every $2 in earning above the substantial earning threshold. The study examined whether this policy change would increase beneficiaries’ earnings and produce national savings. It found no evidence of a change in earnings for beneficiaries and found that the rule change produced an overall increase in benefits paid out under the SSDI program. You can view the SSA's full report here.

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Alexander Unsure SCOTUS Will Affirm ACA Ruling, Slatery Releases Statement

After a federal judge in Texas issued a decision in which he deemed the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said he was skeptical that U.S. Supreme Court would agree, The Tennessean reports. He said that if such a thing were to happen, however, that he is confident any new federal law to replace it would “continue to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.” Attorney General Herbert Slatery issued a statement today clarifying that “nothing will change until the appeals are final” and issued a challenge to lawmakers, saying “it is up to Congress to provide lawful solutions to healthcare coverage, not just debate or campaign on it.”
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Join Us Today: LAW TECH

Today's the day! Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville!

The flexible open house format allows you to create your own schedule. You can attend CLE sessions, enter to win prizes, network with attendees, visit with sponsors and interact with speakers. Take as many or as few CLE hours as you need. Only those seeking to be awarded CLE Credit will be charged. The registration desk will be open all day, so you can come and go for the hours you need when it is convenient for you. Attendees can earn up to 6.5 hours of Dual CLE credit.

  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show 2019: BEAT THE CLOCK
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Know When to Hold 'Em
  • Digital Evidence – A Technical Life Raft for the Legal Mind
  • Make it Rain: Ethics Guidelines and Practice Essentials

ATTEND TO WIN: Attendees will have a chance to win prizes, including an iPad Pro. The tech prize drawing will be held at the 10:30 a.m. break. Must be present to win.

TAKE A LYFT: TBA has partnered with Lyft to offer attendees a discounted ride.

  • New to Lyft?: Get $5 off 2 rides at or download the app and enter code LAWTECH5
  • Already Have Lyft?: Save 10% off 2 rides to or from Law Tech Blast with code LAWTECH



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Give the Gift of TBA Membership

Give yourself (or a friend) the gift that keeps giving — one-year of unlimited access to professional development opportunities and a number of programs and services designed to help you become a better practitioner. Founded in 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association is dedicated to enhancing fellowship among members of the state's legal community. Oh, and did we mention some of the benefits? Earn three pre-paid credits to use on any live or online course featured in the 12-days of CLE. Join now!

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Pence Breaks Tie to Confirm Federal Judicial Nominee with ABA ‘Not Qualified’ Rating

Vice President Mike Pence cast a tiebreaking voting in the U.S. Senate this week to confirm a nominee who received a “not qualified” rating from the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, The ABA Journal reports. Jonathan Kobes will serve on the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The standing committee thought Kobes didn’t have the needed experience and did not show evidence of being able to fulfill the writing requirements required of a federal appeals judge, according to a Sept. 14 letter explaining the rating.
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Court to Recognize Bryant for 10 Years of Service

The United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee invites you to a reception for Magistrate Judge Edward G. Bryant who is celebrating 10 years of service to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. To recognize his contribution, the court is hosting a reception in his honor on Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. in the United States Courthouse, 111 South Highland Ave. in Jackson. Confirm your planned attendance by Dec. 21 through email or by calling (731) 421-6338.

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Former Bush A.G. Likely Pick to Replace Sessions

President Donald Trump’s likely choice to become the next Attorney General is an establishment Republican with no prior association with the president, the ABA Journal reports from a variety of sources. Learn more about William Barr, who served in that post for two years under President George H.W. Bush and held other high-ranking jobs within the Department of Justice. Any nomination would likely take many months to confirm, leaving in place Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

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Trump Appointments: Report Looks at Possible Judicial Openings in Coming Years

With a solid Republican majority in the Senate, President Trump will likely continue to be successful in winning approval of his appointments to federal district and appellate courts, a Brookings Institute report says, but it is less likely that he will see the high number of openings that he’s been presented with during the first two years of his term.

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Dickson Lawyer Faces Federal Charges for Fraud, Theft from Trust Fund

Suspended Dickson lawyer Jack Garton was charged Thursday with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and tax fraud related to a years-long scheme in which he allegedly misappropriated more than $1.1 million from a trust fund set up for the daughter of a state trooper killed in the line of duty, the Tennessean reports. If convicted of the federal charges, Garton faces up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge, up to three years on the tax fraud charge and an additional mandatory two-year sentence on the aggravated identity theft charge. Additionally, he faces a $250,000 fine on each count and will be required to pay restitution to the victims of his crimes, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Don Cochran.

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Justices Appear Reluctant to Stop State, Federal Prosecutions for Same Crime

A long-standing precedent that allows a state and the federal government to prosecute a person for the same crime — despite the constitutional ban on “double jeopardy” — will likely stay in place, the Associated Press reports in the Bristol Herald Courier. Both conservative and liberal Supreme Court justices hearing an appeal from an Alabama man who was prosecuted in both state and federal court for being a felon in possession of a gun, on Thursday seemed unwilling to make the change. “This is a 170-year-old rule,” said Justice Elena Kagan. It has been repeatedly upheld by more than 30 justices, and Kagan said she was “uncomfortable” in tossing it out now.

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Firms Oppose New Supreme Court Brief Word Limits

A coalition of 18 law firms that specialize in U.S. Supreme Court advocacy told the court today that proposed rules aimed at trimming the length of briefs “would be harmful” to lawyers’ ability to “thoroughly and thoughtfully brief issues that are critical to the court’s resolution of the cases before it," reports. The proposed rule changes called for cutting the word limit of briefs on the merits from 15,000 to 13,000 words. A letter from the coalition said that in “average” cases, that reduction might be doable, but added, “It can be challenging in cases of even moderate complexity to recite the relevant facts, argue the issues raised, and include all required parts of the brief within the currently allotted 15,000 words.”
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Acting U.S. Attorney General Whitaker Talks Opioids in Nashville

Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker visited Nashville today to tout the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, The Tennessean reports. Whitaker read statistics, highlighted prosecutions and emphasized that it was a top priority for President Trump. He did not take questions or discuss new initiatives during the short visit.
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December CLE in 6 Cities

TBA offers CLE in six locations during December. See offerings in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, Johnson City and Jackson. Find last-minute by the hour through Dec. 31 or take any of the TBA's online CLE packages.
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Senate Republicans Discuss Changes to Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Senate Republicans are discussing changes to the FIRST STEP Act, the initial bill regarding a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system, The Washington Post reports. Among the changes being discussed are narrowing fentanyl-related crimes to ameliorate mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, narrowing the “safety valve” provision, which provides more discretion to judges when issuing sentences and nixing the “stacking” regulation, which would add more penalties to those who commit a drug-related crime while possessing a gun, even if the firearm wasn’t used. President Trump has made criminal justice reform one of his top legislative priorities, a measure that has to date received bipartisan support.

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Blackburn Could Join U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee

Newly-elected U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn is a favorite to join the Senate Judiciary Committee, Politico reports. Senate Republicans are eager to address their gender diversity issues, the report says, and adding Blackburn would help that process. According to Chair Chuck Grassley, it has been difficult in previous years to convince women to join the committee.

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U.S. Mulls Doubling Tariffs on China

According to Business Standard, Recently at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit in Papua New Guinea, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence took a hard line Saturday when asked about China and tariffs stating, "The United States, will not change course until China changes its ways." The U.S. is asking China for improve market access and intellectual property protections for U.S. companies, cut industrial subsidies and slash a $375 billion trade gap. With no end in sight this warning will likely be unwelcome news to financial markets that had hoped for a thaw in relations and maybe even some sort of deal at a G20 meeting later this month in Argentina. For his part, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said, "History has shown that confrontation, whether in the form of a Cold War, hot war or trade war will produce no winners."

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Mark Your Calendars!

Trump Endorses Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Bill

President Trump today threw his support behind bipartisan legislation that would loosen some mandatory minimum sentencing laws, The Washington Post reports. The First Step Act, he said, included “reasonable sentencing reforms while keeping dangerous and violent criminals off our streets.” The bill includes language that lowers mandatory minimum sentences for drug felonies, including reducing the “three-strikes” penalty from life behind bars to 25 years. It also would include Senate language that retroactively applies the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduces the disparity in sentencing guidelines between crack and powder cocaine offenses.
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Judge Blocks Keystone Pipeline Pending Climate-Impact Review

A federal judge in Montana has blocked the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, citing the need for additional review of the impact on climate change, The Washington Post reports. Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court in Montana said the State Department ignored crucial issues of climate change to further the president’s goal of letting the pipeline be built. In doing so, the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires “reasoned” explanations for government decisions, particularly when they represent reversals of well-studied actions. 
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Justice Ginsburg Hospitalized for Fractured Ribs

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg fractured three ribs on her left side during a fall yesterday in her office, resulting in her hospitalization, CBS News reports. This is the second time Ginsburg has experienced such an injury, having broken ribs in a fall in 2012. 
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Kavanaugh Formally Takes Seat at SCOTUS Bench

Brett Kavanaugh formally took his seat as the 114th justice at a U.S. Supreme Court investiture ceremony last week, NPR reports. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended the ceremony. Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement created the vacancy for Kavanaugh's nomination, also attended.
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Former Baker Aide to be Ambassador to Australia

President Donald Trump has nominated attorney and Tennessee native A.B. Culvahouse Jr. as ambassador to Australia, the Nashville Post reports. The former aide to Sen. Howard Baker also served as legal counsel to President Ronald Regan and was previously chair of international law firm O’Melveny & Myers. “A.B. Culvahouse is an exceptionally fine nominee for Ambassador to Australia,” Sen. Lamar Alexander said in a statement. “His experience as counsel to President Reagan and President Trump and former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, and his leadership of one of the world’s major law firms equip him to represent our country well."

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Hardin Steps Down as President of Former U.S. Attorneys Group

Nashville attorney Hal Hardin stepped down as president of the National Association of Former United States Attorneys during the group’s recent annual conference in Nashville. Nashville Mayor David Briley and Tennessee Deputy Governor Jim Henry joined in welcoming NAFUSA to Nashville and proclaimed a “NAFUSA Week” in Nashville. Terry Flynn from the Western District of New York took over the reins of the organization from Hardin.

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SCOTUS Allows Trial in Challenge to Census Citizenship Question

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to block a trial in a challenge to the U.S. Commerce Department’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, USA Today reports. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch dissented, while it’s unclear how the other justices voted. Federal district and appeals court judges had approved the depositions and green-lighted the trial, which was set to start soon.
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Ex-Pilot President Denied Christmas Break Before Starting Fraud Sentence

A request from convicted Pilot Flying J former President Mark Hazelwood that he have until after Christmas to begin serving his 12 ½ years in prison for fraud has been denied, Knoxnews reports. "If the court attempted to set (prison) dates that did not conflict with any religious holidays, it would be unable to set any dates at all," U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier said. "Easter, the most important Christian religious holiday, would come just a few short months after Christmas." Hazelwood was convicted in a scheme to rip off small trucking companies of more than $50 million.

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