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Judge puts part of Duggar case on hold

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Photographs by AP file photo

Josh Duggar is shown in this file photo.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A judge has issued a stay in Josh Duggar's lawsuit against Springdale city officials over the release of information related to allegations he sexually abused his sisters while they were children.

U.S. District Judge Tim Brooks said in an order issued Monday he would stay proceedings until he rules on the Springdale officials' motion to dismiss the suit based on qualified immunity. Public officials are protected under qualified immunity from being sued for damages unless they violated "clearly established" law of which a reasonable official in his position would have known.

Legal lingo

Qualified immunity: Public officials are protected from being sued for damages unless they violated “clearly established” law of which a reasonable official in his position would have known. It aims to protect civil servants from the fear of litigation in performing discretionary functions entrusted to them by law. Government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages as long as as their conduct doesn’t violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.

Source: uslegal.com

The hearing on that motion is set for Oct. 13 and will address other pending motions as well.

The Springdale defendants include the city, Mayor Doug Sprouse, City Attorney Ernest Cate and former Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley.

Brooks' order only applies to Duggar and the Springdale defendants. It does not include other parties in the lawsuit named by Duggar who have not requested a stay.

Duggar's lawyers do not oppose the stay, according to the motion, but do not want it to remain in place if there is an appeal filed after the judge rules on the qualified immunity issue. Brooks said he won't rule now on whether the stay would remain in place.

Duggar's lawyers also oppose a request by the Springdale defendants to keep them from making further requests for documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Brooks' order says he won't restrict Duggar's ability to request more documents.

Duggar filed a federal lawsuit in July against the Springdale officials and others over the release of information related to allegations he sexually abused his sisters while they were all minors.

The lawsuit claims Duggar's right to due process was violated and his privacy was invaded. It seeks $75,000 in damages, lawyer's fees and a jury trial.

Duggar's lawsuit came after an initial attempt to be part of a lawsuit brought by four of his sisters. He filed a motion to intervene, then withdrew the request, without explanation, in June.

The sisters are Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy Duggar. They sued Springdale officials, Washington County officials and Bauer Media Group, which published In Touch Weekly magazine and related social media sites, in May. There are several motions pending to combine the two cases.

The sisters' lawsuit claims police documents were improperly released to the magazine that published the information. Federal claims include invasion of privacy, outrage and violation of the right to due process.

Police investigated allegations of sexual abuse against Josh Duggar in 2006, related to incidents in 2002 and 2003, but no charges were filed. However, a Family in Need of Services petition was filed in Washington County Juvenile Court.

The lawsuits contend police assured the family information from the investigation and their interviews would be available only to law enforcement, juvenile court and child services personnel.

NW News on 09/12/2017

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