Texas Psychologist's Lawsuit Survives Motion To Dismiss

By William Perry Pendley

DENVER - A Texas psychologist, who is also an attorney and is recognized nationally for her expertise and experience, on June 26 survived a motion to dismiss her lawsuit alleging that the State of Texas bars her unconstitutionally from accurately describing who she is and what she is trained to do. Mary Louise Serafine, Ph.D., Esq., of Austin, named the two heads of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists for infringing unconstitutionally on her political speech, the practice of her profession, her ability to advertise her services, and her ability to describe her education and expertise in political, commercial, or other contexts. Dr. Serafine's lawsuit, under the Constitution's First and 14th Amendments as well as the Civil Rights Act of 1871, seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against enforcement of the Psychologists Licensing Act and its regulations against her. The November 2011 lawsuit is in the Texas federal district court for the western district, Austin division.

"We are pleased the court sustained our right to proceed with our First Amendment claim because it gives speech the highest possible constitutional protection and trumps Texas's licensing statute," said William Perry Pendley of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF); MSLF represents Dr. Serafine.

In 2010, Dr. Serafine was the Republican nominee for Texas Senate in Travis County, and described her occupation as a "psychologist." The Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists ordered her to "cease and desist" from using the term and threatened legal action. Dr. Serafine complied, but intends to run for office again and wants to engage in protected political speech by saying she is a "psychologist," but not a "licensed" psychologist.

Dr. Serafine also intends to engage in the practice of psychology and to communicate with clients, communications protected by the Constitution but barred by Texas. Finally, Dr. Serafine is barred by Texas from truthfully communicating with potential clients regarding her skills, experience, and services and from using the word "psychologist" to describe herself truthfully and accurately in a purely social setting. With Dr. Serafine's lawsuit against Tim F. Branaman, Chairman of the Board of Examiners of Psychologists, and Sherry L. Lee, its Executive Director, Dr. Serafine seeks to protect her constitutional rights and to free herself from fear of prosecution by Texas.

Dr. Serafine received a Ph.D. in education from the University of Florida and postdoctoral training in psychology at Yale University, where she served on the psychology faculty. Formerly listed as a psychologist in Who's Who in America, she was a member of the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association and has published her research.

Mountain States Legal Foundation, created in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system. Its offices are in suburban Denver.

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