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Duggar sisters' lawsuit presents different issues, lawyers argue

Issues not brother’s, they say by Ron Wood | October 21, 2021 at 6:56 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Attorneys for Josh Duggar's sisters say a motion to dismiss their federal lawsuit is nothing more than a backdoor attempt to relitigate an earlier ruling the remaining defendants lost.

The plaintiffs, as named on the lawsuit, are Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy Duggar. The lawsuit alleges that the release of police records by certain officials publicized their trauma and subjected the women and their families to extreme mental anguish and emotional distress.

The records released related to a police investigation that concluded Josh Duggar fondled the sisters and at least one other girl. The statute of limitations had run out, and no criminal charges were filed.

The women's lawsuit claims that Springdale and Washington County officials improperly released redacted police investigation documents to the celebrity magazine In Touch. The magazine published the information, which allowed the women to be identified, the suit says.

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 for a ruling dismissing 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 argue 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.

The earlier decision by the Court of Appeals also should govern the outcome of the women's claims because they are using the same facts and arguments Josh Duggar made in his case, according to the defendants' motion.

Lawyers for the four women say their claims aren't the same because the women were victims while Josh Duggar was the assailant and, unlike their brother, they hadn't been publicly identified before the records were released.

They also contend the defendants made the same argument to dismiss earlier in this case. That motion was dismissed by the court and the issue should be precluded from being considered again, their motion argues.

The response also contends 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 the plaintiffs was a minor when the records were released, which also distinguishes the cases, according to the response.

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

Josh Duggar, 33, is charged in a separate criminal case with two counts involving receiving and possessing child pornography.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks on Monday denied motions to suppress evidence from electronic devices seized from Josh Duggar, which federal prosecutors are expected to use during his upcoming child pornography trial. Brooks also said a hearing on the issues isn't warranted.

Brooks set the case for jury trial Nov. 30.

Print Headline: Duggar sisters challenge move to dismiss case

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