Rosemond Ruling Highlights Unresolved First Amendment Question

Oct 2, 2015

This week, a federal judge slapped down an effort by the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology to halt the printing of a syndicated advice column in the state. But the case represents only one in a string of court battles over the legal reach of occupational licensing boards.

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U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove ruled this week that the board violated the First Amendment by issuing a cease and desist order to newspaper columnist John Rosemond over charges that advice contained in his February 12, 2013 “Living with Children” piece amounted to the unlicensed practice of psychology.

Rosemond, who is licensed in North Carolina, fought back and won. But, as Paul Sherman with the Institute for Justice, he attorney who argued the case for the columnist, notes, the issue in question could eventually find its way to the Supreme Court. 

"One of the most important unanswered questions in First Amendment law is whether occupational licensing laws can trump the First Amendment right to give that kind of advice," he says.

Sherman points to conflicting rulings across the country involving a wide range of defendants from bloggers to historical tour guides, cases where courts have disagreed over where to draw the line between licensing board authority and free speech protections. As for the Rosemond case, he anticipates it will resurface in future proceedings.

"It's a very important precedent and we think it will be influential in other courts," Sherman says.

A spokesperson for the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology tells WUKY the board is still reviewing the decision and has no comment at this time.