Kentucky Tries to Bar Advice Columnist

     FRANKFORT, Ky. (CN) – Syndicated advice columnist John Rosemond sued Kentucky, claiming its attorney general is trying to bar his column from the state because he’s not licensed to practice psychology in Kentucky.
     Rosemond sued Attorney General Jack Conway, the chair and vice chair of the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology, and six members of the board, in Federal Court.
     Rosemond, 65, is a licensed “psychological associate” in North Carolina. He is not licensed to practice psychology in any other state. His books on parenting, five of which were bestsellers, have been distributed all over the United States, according to the complaint.
     Rosemond also has appeared on national television and has organized seminars to offer customized advice to parents.
     His column on parenting, distributed by the McClatchy-Tribune syndicate, appears in more than 200 newspapers nationwide, including Kentucky, according to the complaint.
     Rosemond claims the Kentucky attorney general sent him a letter in May, calling his Feb. 12 column in the Lexington Herald-Leader an “unlicensed practice of psychology” in Kentucky.
     The attorney general’s letter also claimed that Rosemond had illegally used the word “psychologist” to describe himself because he was not licensed to practice in the state.
     “In this Feb. 12, 2013 column, plaintiff Rosemond responded to a question from parents who described their son as a ‘highly spoiled underachiever,'” the complaint states. “The substance of plaintiff Rosemond’s advice was to take away the teenager’s privileges until he showed consistent improvement. Plaintiff Rosemond warned the parents to persevere through any backlash from their son in order to keep him on the right track.
     “On Feb. 13, 2013, Thomas Kirby Neill, Ph.D., a ‘retired clinical child psychologist, formerly licensed in Kentucky,’ wrote a letter to the Psychology Board to express his opinion that plaintiff Rosemond’s advice in his Feb. 12, 2013 column was ‘unprofessional and unethical.’ As stated in his letter, Dr. Neill faulted plaintiff Rosemond for dispensing advice without performing a ‘personal assessment of the child and family, and without a professional relationship that allows him to follow up’ on his advice. Dr. Neill noted in his letter that he had complained to the Psychology Board before about plaintiff Rosemond’s column, and urged the Board at least to prevent plaintiff Rosemond from using the word ‘psychologist’ to describe himself in his columns published in Kentucky.” (Citations to exhibits omitted).
     Rosemond says Attorney General Conway asked him to sign a cease and desist affidavit promising to stop practicing psychology without a license in Kentucky.
     He says he responded with a letter explaining that his advice column was not “unlicensed practice of psychology,” and was similar to advice by high-profile TV and radio personalities such as Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura, whose shows and books also reach audiences in Kentucky.
     Like other advice personalities, Rosemond has no direct relationship with the parents he advises, does not charge them for services, and does not know if they follow his advice, according to the complaint.
     Rosemond explained that he had no direct publishing relationship with Kentucky newspapers, which receive his column from the syndicate, and that it would be difficult to withdraw his column solely from Kentucky.
     Rosemond says he received no reply to his letter.
     He says the Lexington Herald-Leader continues to run his column, and he would like to return to Kentucky for parenting seminars, but he fears arrest and prosecution.
     To become a licensed psychologist in Kentucky, an applicant must earn a doctoral degree in psychology, pass national and state licensing exams, complete two years of supervised practice and pay a $200 fee, according to the complaint.
     Practicing without a license and use of the word “psychologist” by an unlicensed person are separate offenses, each punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine.
     Rosemond says he fears that the state will try to ban his books on the same “unlicensed-practice” theory.
     He claims Kentucky would violate his First Amendment rights by censoring his books and column based on their content.
     Rosemond seeks an injunction and damages for constitutional violations.
     He is represented by Richard Brueggemann with Hemmer DeFrank of Ft. Mitchell, Ky. and Jeff Rowes with the Institute for Justice of Arlington, Va.

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