ACLU of Michigan Sues State to Overturn Unconstitutional Ban on Commercial Speech

February 05, 2015

DETROIT — In a pushback against excessive government restrictions on free speech, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has filed a lawsuit against the state regulatory and licensing agency on behalf of two limited-license psychologists who are prohibited by state law from promoting their services.

“These are qualified professionals who simply want to find the most effective way of reaching and helping those in need,” explained Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU of Michigan. “Their promotions were honest and in no way misleading. And since truthful commercial speech is protected by the First Amendment, it’s clear that the state overstepped its bounds by enacting and enforcing a law that essentially silences these professionals.”

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of Judy Seldin and Karen Gottschalk, a pair of limited-license psychologists (LLPs) who in 2012 began promoting their services in an online directory of mental health services run by Psychology Today magazine.

In July, officials from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs forced Seldin and Gottschalk to remove themselves from the directory listing, citing a state law that bans LLPs from advertising their services.

Under the law, LLPs are permitted to practice psychology under the supervision of fully licensed psychologists—but currently only fully licensed psychologists are allowed to advertise.

Seldin and Gottschalk, who worked under the supervision of two different psychologists, said that the Psychology Today listings had provided a dramatic boost to their businesses. When they were forced to take down the listings, however, business for both women declined.

“Most referrals to psychologists come directly from the client conducting their own Internet search,” said Gottschalk. “Psychology Today is the primary and most prominent Internet directory used by clients seeking therapists. Between 60% and 90% of our clients came from Internet advertising. Most of our clients came to us through the Psychology Today directory alone. Without the ability to advertise, we cannot generate the new clients required to sustain our practices and support ourselves and families.”

Seldin and Gottschalk are represented by Steinberg and ACLU Cooperating Attorneys Andrew Nickelhoff and Marshall Widick of the firm Sachs Waldman, PC.