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Former Washington County attorney dropped from Duggar sisters' federal lawsuit; motions seek dismissal of remainder as well

3 defendants remain in case over redacted-records release that identified girls by Ron Wood | October 13, 2021 at 6:47 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A former attorney for Washington County has been dropped from a federal lawsuit over the release of police records identifying the sisters of Josh Duggar.

The remaining defendants want the rest of the lawsuit dismissed, as well.

The records released related to a police investigation that concluded that Duggar, 33, of Springdale 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 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.

Steve Zega was dropped from the lawsuit last week. The Duggar daughters didn't oppose Zega being dismissed from the case.

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, have 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 plaintiffs, as named on the lawsuit, are Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy Duggar. The lawsuit alleges that publicizing their trauma subjected the women and their families to extreme mental anguish and emotional distress.

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 that 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 motion.

Lawyers for Hoyt, Cate and O'Kelley also note that Washington County juvenile court judge Stacy Zimmerman weighed in on the question of whether the redacted police reports should have been released in the immediate wake of the disclosures and said Arkansas Juvenile Code "does not protect the records at issue from disclosure."

The Court of Appeals also ruled that Josh Duggar failed to show why he should have an expectation of privacy when he and his family were subjects of a reality television series garnering them a certain level of celebrity locally, nationally and internationally for each and every member of the immediate family, according to the motion. The same would be true of the women's case, the lawyers argue.

Lawyers for Hoyt, Cate and O'Kelley also have asked that witnesses be barred from testifying that the women have suffered psychological damage and need care for the remainder of their lives.

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

Josh Duggar is charged in a separate criminal case with two counts involving receiving and possessing child pornography. U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks set that case for jury trial Nov. 30.

Print Headline: Attorney freed from Duggar sisters' suit

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