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In re Disciplinary Proceedings Against Bant

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

December 18, 2019

In the Matter of Disciplinary Proceedings Against Beth M. Bant, Attorney at Law:
v.
Beth M. Bant, Respondent-Appellant. Office of Lawyer Regulation, Complainant-Respondent,

         DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST BANT

         ATTORNEY disciplinary proceeding. Attorney's license suspended.

          For the respondent-appellant, there were briefs filed by Peyton Engel and Hurley Burish, S.C., Madison.

          For the complainant-respondent, there was a brief filed by Kim M. Kluck and Office of Lawyer Regulation.

          PER CURIAM.

         ¶1 Attorney Beth M. Bant appeals the report of Robert E. Kinney, referee, recommending that this court suspend her Wisconsin law license for six months, impose the full costs of this proceeding, and order her to undergo a psychological evaluation for consideration at any future reinstatement proceeding. The referee determined that Attorney Bant committed the two counts of misconduct that the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) complaint alleged and to which she eventually stipulated: engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation, in violation of Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 20:8.4(c), [1] and violating a standard of conduct set forth in one of this court's decisions, in violation of SCR 20:8.4(f).[2]

         ¶2 After fully reviewing this matter, we reject all but one of Attorney Bant's arguments on appeal. We accept the referee's findings of fact (with one minor exception, noted below), and we agree that those facts establish that Attorney Bant committed the two misconduct counts brought by the OLR. We further agree with the referee that those violations require the imposition of a six-month suspension. We also determine that Attorney Bant should be required to pay the full costs of this proceeding, which total $10, 177.91 as of July 11, 2019. We do not, however, accept the referee's recommendation that Attorney Bant undergo a psychological evaluation at this time.

         ¶3 Attorney Bant was licensed to practice law in Wisconsin in 2013. She has no disciplinary history.

         ¶4 On March 22, 2018, the OLR filed a complaint alleging two counts of misconduct arising out of Attorney Bant's work as an in-house lawyer for an insurance company headquartered in Wisconsin. Attorney Bant filed an answer in which she admitted some of the OLR's factual allegations, but denied that she engaged in professional misconduct. In July 2018, the parties entered into a stipulation in which Attorney Bant admitted certain facts, as well as the two counts of misconduct alleged in the OLR's complaint. In December 2018, Attorney Bant filed an amended answer that was consistent with the parties' stipulation. The referee then held a hearing at which he confirmed Attorney Bant's admissions of misconduct and took evidence to facilitate his recommendation as to the appropriate sanction.

         ¶5 The referee filed his report on March 21, 2019. Attorney Bant timely appealed from the referee's report. The referee's report and the exhibits received at the evidentiary hearing may be summarized as follows.

         ¶6 From February 2014 through December 2016, Attorney Bant worked as an in-house lawyer for an insurance company headquartered in Wisconsin.

         ¶7 In October 2016, Attorney Bant and her supervisor agreed that Attorney Bant would attend an American Bar Association seminar in New Orleans, Louisiana. On October 31, 2016, Attorney Bant submitted a request for reimbursement of the $1, 115 fee listed on a fabricated seminar registration receipt that Attorney Bant had created using computer editing software. The fabricated receipt listed the dates of the seminar as December 8 and 9, 2016, even though the seminar was actually scheduled to take place on November 3 and 4, 2016. Attorney Bant's employer paid her the requested sum of $1, 115 for the seminar fee.

         ¶8 Attorney Bant told her employer that she would fly to New Orleans for the seminar on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, and would attend the seminar on December 8 and 9, 2016. But Attorney Bant did not go to New Orleans on those dates; as mentioned above, the seminar had occurred over a month earlier. A coworker spotted Attorney Bant in town on the morning of Friday, December 9, 2016.

         ¶9 Sometime in December 2016, Attorney Bant had uploaded, but had not yet formally submitted for reimbursement, the following fabricated travel receipts into her employer's expense system.

• A receipt for the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans for the nights of December 7, 8, and 9, 2016, in the amount of $1, 562.92. Attorney Bant fabricated this receipt by using computer editing software to modify a prior receipt from a different hotel. Attorney Bant's modifications included copying the Windsor Court Hotel logo from their website ...

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