FAYETTEVILLE -- A federal judge Friday dismissed parts of a lawsuit claiming Springdale and Washington County officials improperly released decade-old information about an investigation into Josh Duggar sexually abusing four of his sisters.
Four daughters of the Jim Bob Duggar family sued the officials in May, claiming they improperly released redacted police investigation documents to a celebrity magazine, which published the information allowing the girls to be identified. The investigation determined Josh Duggar fondled the sisters and at least one other girl. The statute of limitations had run out and no charges were filed.
The daughters are Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy Duggar.
Defendants include Springdale, former Springdale Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley, Springdale City Attorney Ernest Cate, Washington County, Maj. Rick Hoyt with the Sheriff's Office, former county attorney Steve Zega and Bauer Media Group, which published the magazine and related social media sites. The lawsuit also lists 10 unidentified "Doe" defendants, believed to be employees of the defendants.
The sisters' lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court claims due process violation in that the girls' rights under the Arkansas Constitution and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were violated by disclosing the reports and details of the investigation to the celebrity magazine.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial.
City and county officials asked Judge Tim Brooks to throw out the lawsuit arguing they are entitled to qualified and statutory immunity from being sued and the lawsuit fails to state a claim. They also contended the information was public knowledge when it was released. Brooks heard arguments on the motions last week.
On Friday, Brooks refused to dismiss the Constitutional due process claims against O'Kelley, Cate, and Hoyt in their individual capacities.
Brooks said the girls had a reasonable expectation the information wouldn't be released to the public.
Brooks noted that, at the time the information was released there was a state statute exempting any information created, collected or compiled by or on behalf of the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas State Police, or other entities authorized to perform investigations or provide services to children and families from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
"Taking the facts alleged in the complaint as true, any reasonable person in the position to make these disclosures would have understood that these disclosures would be published, would cause a national scandal, would be a 'shocking degradation' or 'egregious humiliation' for the plaintiffs," Brooks wrote in his ruling.
He wrote the plaintiffs had a 'legitimate expectation' of confidentiality and disclosing the material would violate their constitutional right to privacy.
However, Brooks dismissed official capacity claims against Cate and Zega, saying they aren't final policy makers but rather tasked, as lawyers for the agencies, with only giving advice to policy makers.
Brooks also wrote the lawsuit failed to state a claim against the city or county because there's nothing in the complaint to indicate the disclosures were anything other than isolated incidents rather than a policy or continuing pattern of misconduct.
Brooks ruled immunity isn't relevant to the girls' state law claims of invasion of privacy and outrage, but there are sufficient facts alleged to go forward on those claims as well.
Brooks noted in such motions he's required to accept all of the girls' factual allegations as true, and construe them in the light most favorable to them, drawing all reasonable inferences in their favor, but added, evidence in the case could prove the claims invalid.NW News on 09/30/2017
Print Headline: Some defendants dismissed from Duggar lawsuit