Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit over release of documents identifying Duggars; trial set for Dec. 9 in Fayetteville

Brooks: Previous dismissal ‘has no bearing on this case’

FAYETTEVILLE -- A federal judge won't dismiss a lawsuit filed by the sisters of Josh Duggar claiming the release of police records publicized their trauma and subjected them and their families to extreme mental anguish and emotional distress.

Lawyers for the remaining defendants, former Maj. Rick Hoyt of the Washington County Sheriff's Office; Ernest Cate, Springdale city attorney; and former Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley, filed a joint motion asking the judge to dismiss the case.

The lawsuit was filed May 18, 2017, alleging a number of legal causes of action against a host of defendants. The legal claims have been narrowed as has the pool of defendants.

The three remaining claims -- now made against only O'Kelley, Cate and Hoyt -- are made under Arkansas law for outrage, invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion and invasion of privacy by public disclosure of private facts.

Lawyers for O'Kelley, Cate and Hoyt argued the claims made by the women are exactly the same as those made unsuccessfully by their brother in an earlier lawsuit. Josh Duggar's case was dismissed by an Arkansas circuit judge on a motion by the defendants for judgment based on arguments made in filings, according to the motion.

That dismissal was affirmed by the Arkansas Court of Appeals in Joshua Duggar v. City of Springdale. Josh Duggar filed an appeal, but the Arkansas Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks sided with lawyers for the women in denying the motion to dismiss.

"The state court dismissal of Mr. Duggar's case has no bearing on this case," Brooks wrote in an order last week. "Plaintiffs and Mr. Duggar are siblings, but plaintiffs' allegations against the City of Springdale and Washington County are factually dissimilar to their brother's allegations. Plaintiffs were Mr. Duggar's victims."

Lawyers for the four women also argued they hadn't been publicly identified before the records were released.

They also contended the defendants made the same argument to dismiss earlier in this case. That motion was dismissed by Brooks and shouldn't be considered again, they argued.

Lawyers for the women also contended a different Arkansas law makes disclosure of the records identifying the women unlawful. Josh Duggar was not protected under that law, which provides a law enforcement agency shall not disclose to the public information directly or indirectly identifying the victim of a sex crime.

And, unlike Josh Duggar, one of plaintiffs was a minor when the records were released, which also distinguishes the case, according to the lawyers for the women.

The case is set for trial beginning Dec. 9 in federal court in Fayetteville.

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Motion for reconsideration

A legal filing where a party to a lawsuit requests that the court review a prior decision and consider issuing a new/different decision in light of that review. Typically the motion is filed when a party believes the judge didn’t consider or properly examine certain evidence or correctly apply the law; or when new evidence is available that a party was not able to present before the judge made a decision.

Source: Staff report

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