The Arkansas Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a local judge was correct to toss most of Josh Duggar's claims against Springdale and Washington County officials over the release of investigation records related to the molestation of his sisters when they were all juveniles.
The court did modify the lower court's order to allow Duggar a narrow window to pursue a civil rights claim, should he choose to continue.
Federal v. state courts
The differences between federal and state courts are defined mainly by jurisdiction. Jurisdiction refers to the kinds of cases a court is authorized to hear. State courts have broad jurisdiction, so the cases individual citizens are most likely to be involved in are usually tried in state courts. Federal court jurisdiction is limited to the types of cases listed in the Constitution and specifically provided for by Congress.
Duggar sued in March 2018 in Washington County Circuit Court, claiming outrage, invasion of privacy, invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion and deprivation of rights under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993. The lawsuit basically mirrored a previous federal lawsuit that was dismissed in 2017.
Circuit Judge Doug Martin dismissed Duggar's lawsuit without a trial, ruling Duggar failed to state allegations to support his claims. Duggar appealed.
Court of Appeals judges ruled Wednesday that because all the claims in Duggar's state complaint, except for the civil rights claim, were previously dismissed in federal court and then re-filed in state court, the second time the claims were dismissed is final.
The judges noted the state case was the first time Duggar's Arkansas Civil Rights Act claim was dismissed, since it was not part of his federal lawsuit. Because Martin dismissed the claim with prejudice, meaning it could not be refiled, his ruling denied Duggar an opportunity to further pursue that claim.
The judges modified Martin's order to reflect the dismissal of the civil rights claim was without prejudice, meaning Duggar could refile it.
In 2006, police investigated after receiving an anonymous tip that Duggar fondled five girls in 2002 and 2003. Duggar, a juvenile at the time, was never charged, but acknowledged wrongdoing in a statement released after media reports were published in May 2015. His parents and two of the sisters later confirmed the actions in interviews with Fox News.
The lawsuit filed in Washington County Circuit Court argued public disclosure of facts that would otherwise have remained private caused Duggar significant emotional distress, mental anguish and substantial lost income.
City and county officials improperly gave publicity to the records of a juvenile investigation performed by the juvenile division of the Springdale Police Department, acting in cooperation with the Arkansas State Police, according to Duggar's lawsuit. The release placed Duggar before the public in the light of a sex offender when the records should have remained sealed, the suit claimed.
Duggar also had a reasonable expectation the records would be destroyed on his 21st birthday in accordance with state law, according to the lawsuit.
The appeals court found a state law cited by Duggar didn't prohibit release of the documents because Duggar was no longer a juvenile at the time the investigation was done in December 2006. The also said Duggar failed to say how he suffered any damages or why he should expect privacy when he and his family were subjects of a reality television series "from which a certain level of celebrity locally, nationally and internationally was attributable to each and every member of the immediate family."
In dismissing Duggar's federal lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks said the fact Duggar was named in a story by In Touch magazine, before the police documents were released, was fatal to nearly all of Duggar's claims against Springdale and Washington defendants.
A federal lawsuit by four of Duggar's sisters is still in the federal courts, although several defendants have been dismissed.
NW News on 04/09/2020
Print Headline: Appeals court spikes most Duggar claims