Judge Dismisses Duggar Sisters' Invasion of Privacy Lawsuit, Saying They Didn't Prove Their Case

In May 2017, Jill (Duggar) Dillard, Jessa (Duggar) Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy-Anna Duggar claimed authorities had revealed private facts about them

Duggar Family
Photo: D Dipasupil/Getty (3); joy4site/Instagram

An Arkansas judge has dismissed the 2017 lawsuit filed by Jill (Duggar) Dillard, Jessa (Duggar) Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy-Anna Duggar.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks claimed in his ruling that the Duggar sisters "have not presented any direct proof or reasonable inference" to prevail on their claims that their seclusion was disrupted and that authorities had revealed private facts about them.

A rep and an attorney for the Duggar family did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment.

Wednesday's ruling came just hours after the sisters' Feb. 10 settlement conference was canceled, according to local news outlets.

In May 2017, the four Duggar siblings sued Springdale and Washington County officials, including Maj. Rick Hoyt of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, Ernest Cate, Springdale city attorney and former Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley. The group of four claimed that authorities released redacted investigation documents to InTouch, which published them and publicly disclosed the identities of the Duggar women.

Josh Duggar mugshot
Josh Duggar. Washington County Sheriff

The documents were part of an investigation into the women's older brother Josh Duggar.

"From approximately March of 2002 until March of 2003, the Plaintiffs were sexually abused by their brother, Joshua. He was 14 years old when the abuse began and 15 years old when it ended. At the time of the abuse, the Plaintiffs ranged in age from 5 to 11 years old," the document states. "Their parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, discovered the abuse but did not report it to the police or any state agency. Instead, they decided to keep it a secret and discipline Joshua privately."

However, Jim Bob and Michelle had confided in their close friends Jim and Bobye Holt. "In 2003, the Holts' daughter, Kaeleigh, wrote a summary of what she had heard from her parents about the abuse in a letter to her favorite author. Instead of mailing the letter, she placed it in a book, which she left on her bookshelf. There the secret remained until 2006, when Kaeleigh loaned the book to a friend and fellow church member," the document states.

"Kaeleigh's friend found the letter and shared its contents with her parents. From that point on, the Duggars' family secret spread by word of mouth to the other members of their close-knit church community. It is unknown exactly how many church members learned of the abuse, but the news caused factions to form within the church, and certain church members evidently disagreed with how the matter was being handled," the document continues.

As word spread, authorities received calls about claims that Josh had molested his sisters. State police contacted the Duggar family and the sisters "testified in their depositions that these investigators assured them that the contents of their interviews would remain confidential."

At the time, no criminal charges were brought against Josh.

In a previous filing, Jill, Jessa, Jinger and Joy-Anna claimed they endured "emotional distress" due to the published documents and made claims for outrage, invasion of privacy by intrusion upon seclusion and invasion of privacy by public disclosure of private facts.

The Duggar sisters' December 2021 trial date was postponed due to Josh's child pornography trial. Josh was found guilty on two counts of knowingly receiving and possessing child pornography, also known as child sexual abuse material. He faces up to 20 years of imprisonment and up to $250,000 in fines for each conviction.

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