Kentucky: we can ban an advice columnist

by Walter Olson on July 22, 2013

“Kentucky claims that writing an advice column that appears in a newspaper in the state — in the specific case of their complaint, the Lexington Herald-Leader, though it appears in others as well — is not an act of freedom of the press, but rather practicing psychology without the required license.” [Brian Doherty] “John Rosemond has been dispensing parenting advice in his newspaper column since 1976, making him one of the longest-running syndicated columnists in the country.” The Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology had its attention called to Rosemond by a local complaint about a column in which he advised parents about how to handle a sullen teen but did not recommend they seek professional help. The Board, along with the state’s attorney general, proceeded to demand that he submit to a cease-and-desist order on such matters as whether he can be bylined as a “psychologist”; Rosemond is licensed as such in his home state of North Carolina, but not in Kentucky. The Institute for Justice is defending Rosemond and has filed an action against the state. [AP]

Update from the Kentucky AG’s office: don’t blame us, we let our lawyers lend themselves out for state agency work and it was by inadvertence that our letterhead was used on what went to Rosemond. As Caleb Brown notes, this opens up new questions even if it answers some others.

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07.28.13 at 11:39 am


1 great unknown 07.22.13 at 6:47 am

Next comes libel tourism. BTW, is “Dr. Phil” licensed in Kentucky?

2 Bob Lipton 07.22.13 at 7:49 am

Is Dr. Katz?


3 Carl 07.22.13 at 10:16 am

Is the Institute for Justice opposed to ALL licensing of psychologists, or do they only want to end the licensing requirement when “Psychologists” practice their trade in such unprofessional manners as via letters containing second-hand information?

4 Israel P. 07.22.13 at 10:16 am

Or Dr. Pepper?

5 Hugo S. Cunningham 07.22.13 at 12:29 pm

They could agree on a disclaimer, eg
“Dr. Rosemond is not licensed as a psychologist in Kentucky, although he is licensed as such in his home state of North Carolina. In any case, open letters on unverified claims in a newspaper column are not an acceptable substitute for individual therapy.”

Any settlement, however, should include State reimbursement of Dr. Rosemond and the newspaper for their reasonable expenses in upholding the First Amendment.

6 Mannie 07.22.13 at 12:51 pm

Maybe he needs to add boilerplate at the bottom of his column, like,

“The foregoing constitutes general discussion, not professional advice. The reader is encouraged to retain a competent medical, psychological, or psychiatric professional or a licensed bartender prior to basing any action or decision on this discussion. Not valid in Kentucky.”

7 DensityDuck 07.22.13 at 4:12 pm

Again, this makes a hard kind of sense. The description “doctor” carries with it a certain assumption of competence and ability and training, vetted and confirmed by an independent party. People who ask for advice from someone calling themself “doctor” assume that there’s a certain degree of validity to that evidence. And that’s where state boards of licensing come in.

And, presumably, strong states’-rights advocates would agree that each state could determine the appropriate licensing requirements for doctors. A desert state might say “we don’t need doctors to submit a detailed plan for dealing with humidity control”; a southeastern coastal state might consider that more important.

And given the ease with which persons in multiple states can access an advice columnist, it’s entirely valid to ask that this person verify that they meet the licensing requirements for every state in which they might want to broadcast their messages. It’s not unheard of; financial workers already need individual certifications for any state where they want to have clients, even if they only deal with those clients over the phone.

Although Mannie suggests a better way to do it, and I’m surprised that the guy wasn’t doing that already.

8 wfjag 07.23.13 at 2:09 am

Dr. Frasier Crane — Public enemy # re-run.

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