CLE Hours: 6 including 6 General, 1 Ethics, 1 Professionalism, 1 Trial Practice
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Ben Vinson was appointed as Chairman and Chief Appellate Judge of the State Board of Workers’ Compensation for the State of Georgia by Governor Brian Kemp in May of 2021. He previously served as Director and Appellate Division Judge for the Board having been appointed by former Governor Nathan Deal in July of 2017. In addition to hearing workers’ compensation cases onappeal, ChairmanVinson shares responsibility with Judges McKay and Bah lfor governing the state agency, which includes regulatory, policy,and operational matters.Prior to joining the Board, he was a partner at Dentons US LLP, focusing his practice on public policy and political law for over ten years. Before that he served as majority caucus counsel in the Georgia House of Representatives and as counsel to the administration floor leaders for former Governor Sonny Perdue. He clerked for Judge W. Brevard Hand of the United States District Court following law school and has been a long-time member of the Atlanta Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society. During his time at Dentons, he was appointed by Governor Deal to serve as Chairman of the Governor’s Commission on the City of Brookhaven and the Georgia Immigration Enforcement Review Board. ChairmanVinson grew up in Dallas, Georgia and earned a bachelor’s degree from Furman University then a law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law, where he was a member of the editorial board and an articles editorof the Georgia Law Review. Heand his wife, Ansley, have two children and reside in Greensboro, Georgia
The Honorable Barbara Lynn Howell, Judge, Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (SBWC), is a graduate of Emory University and Emory University School of Law. A registered mediator and arbitrator, she joined SBWC as an Administrative Law Judge in 2011. Early in her career, Judge Howell worked at SBWC as a staff attorney in the Appellate Division. She left SBWC to attend the regional police academy, where she graduated with honors and became a part-time instructor. Simultaneously, she began her career in government affairs, and, over many years, represented the legislative and appropriation interests of a diverse group of professional associations, corporations, and municipalities.
Judge Howell was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal to serve as Executive Director of Georgia’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council where she also served on the Advisory Council to the National Criminal Justice Association, the Georgia Child Fatality Review Panel, the Georgia Public Safety Memorial Committee and oversaw Georgia’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. She is a graduate of the Atlanta Regional Commission Leadership Institute and served over six years as Governor Deal’s Chairman of Georgia’s Capitol Art Standards Commission. Judge Howell has a keen interest in historic preservation. While looking for her next project, she is taking classes at the National Preservation Institute.
Neil Thom is the Managed Care and Rehabilitation Division Director for the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Prior to this, he provided legal support to the three-member Board in its role as an appellate body in litigated workers’ compensation claims. Before joining the Board staff, he spent 25 years in private legal practice, representing injured workers, employers, and insurers in workers’ compensation claims.
Neil is a member of the Chairman’s Advisory Council, has authored numerous articles on workers’ compensation, and is a frequent speaker at conferences and continuing education programs. He obtained his law degree as a Hatton Lovejoy Scholar and his Bachelor of Arts as a Foundation Fellow, both from the University of Georgia.
Outside of professional activities, Neil’s interests include serving on the board of Trinity United Methodist Church, Atlanta, and managing an online community for francophones learning English.
Neil can be reached at (404) 651-7831; ThomN@sbwc.ga.gov; State Board of Workers’ Compensation, 270 Peachtree St. NW, Atlanta GA 30303.
Kimberly P. Reaves, Mediator, ADR Division
Ms. Reaves joined the Alternative Dispute Resolution Division at the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation as a Mediator on March 1, 2013. Since joining the Board, she has mediated almost 4,000 cases on behalf of the ADR Division and has regularly presented on the topic of best mediation practices through ICLE Georgia, including for the ethics and professionalism credits. Ms. Reaves completed her undergraduate degree in political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989, and then attended the Meredith College Program for Legal Assistants, following which she worked as a litigation paralegal in North Carolina for four years. She then enrolled full-time at the North Carolina Central University School of Law, where she graduated magna cum laude in 1996. Ms. Reaves was admitted to the State Bar of North Carolina in 1996 and was engaged in the private practice of law in North Carolina from 1996 to 2008, during which time she primarily represented insured and self-insured employers in workers’ compensation matters before the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Ms. Reaves was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 2008 and was engaged in the public practice of law from 2008 to 2013 as an Assistant Attorney General in the Workers’ Compensation Section at the Georgia Department of Law, where she represented all State agencies before the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation (Royal v. Pulaski State Prison, 750 S.E.2d 179, 324 Ga. App. 275 (2013)). Ms. Reaves is married to Mr. Robert E. Stachler, II, a licensed patent attorney. They enjoy taking their standard poodle, Georgette, to the dog park and on road trips. Ms. Reaves is able to specially set your mediation through the ADR Division (email@example.com; 404-657-3830).
Kimberly Boehm is an administrative law judge with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation’s Atlanta office. Prior to joining the Board in 2017, she represented injured workers for several years and before that, had a defense practice representing employers, insurers, servicing agents, and group funds in Duluth. She graduated from the University of Georgia with an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy, and obtained her law degree from the Georgia State University College of Law in 1996. She is a member of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary (NAWCJ) and Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA).
Michelle Thomas received her undergraduate degree from the College of William and Mary and her law degree from The Columbus School of Law at Catholic University.
She began her legal career as a claimant’s disability attorney in her hometown of Athens, Georgia. In 2000, she joined an insurance defense firm in Atlanta as a workers’ compensation associate. Thereafter, she spent several years working for an insurance company as part of their workers’ compensation defense team, before returning briefly to private practice in 2016.
In 2018, she joined the State Board of Workers’ Compensation as a mediator, helping parties to resolve issues and achieve settlement across the state. In 2019, in addition to her role as a mediator, she began serving as a Staff Attorney for the Appellate Division of the Board, assisting the Appellate Judges with their decisions in workers’ compensation cases on appeal. Michelle became the Division Director for the Settlement Division of the Board in 2022.
In her free time, Michelle enjoys baking, reading, and yoga. She is fluent in German and frequently travels to Germany to visit friends and family.
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The information presented is solely for educational purposes. The opinions expressed by the faculty in their materials and presentations are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the State Bar of Georgia, its officers, directors and/or employees. The faculty is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional advice and these presentations and publications are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. All publications and presentations were created to serve the continuing legal education needs of practicing attorneys.
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