A Price County attorney is challenging a referee’s recommendation that her license be suspended and that she undergo either a psychological or psychiatric assessment.
The Office of Lawyer Regulation last year charged Beth Bant with violating two attorney-ethics rules. The allegations stemmed from Bant’s lying to her former employer, Church Mutual Insurance Co., about going to a conference in New Orleans and doctoring receipts she had submitted for the trip. Bant is now self-employed and practices elder law in Phillips.
The OLR sought a six-month license suspension for Bant, who is represented by Peyton Engel of Hurley Burish in Madison.
Bant and the OLR reached a stipulation last year, agreeing on the facts and the two misconduct allegations and disagreeing only on the question of appropriate disciplinary measures.
The parties presented evidence and testimony at a hearing in December in Madison before the court-appointed referee Robert Kinney.
In April, he filed a report recommending a six-month license suspension and calling for Bant to be ordered to pay the full cost of the disciplinary proceeding. A six-month or longer license suspension requires a formal proceeding that includes a hearing in which Bant would have to present evidence that she is fit to return to practicing law.
Kinney also suggested that, as a condition for reinstatement, Bant be required to undergo either a psychological or psychiatric assessment, which would answer some of Kinney’s questions about her behavior.
“Was this a game for her?” he wrote. “Did she derive pleasure from duping Church Mutual, which she described as ‘functioning as a small business in that they didn’t have a lot of procedures or processes?’ Was engaging in this conduct thrilling for her?”
Bant filed notice last month that she is challenging Kinney’s recommendations. The high court will review those recommendations as well as Bant and the OLR’s arguments before issuing a final decision in the matter. Bant’s brief is due later this month. Follow @erikastrebel