The Duggar Family: Everything You Need to Know About the Duggar Sisters’ Lawsuit

The Duggar family has found itself in court quite a bit in recent months. In November 2021, Josh Duggar’s trial on two child pornography charges was held. A jury found him guilty on both counts. In January, Jana Duggar was due in court over a child endangerment issue. In February, a judge dismissed the lawsuit filed by Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo, Jill Dillard, and Joy-Anna Forsyth. The lawsuit alleged county and city officials invaded the Duggar daughters’ privacy in 2015. What exactly was the case all about? 

The Duggar sisters filed their lawsuit in 2017 

In May 2017, the four sisters revealed as victims of sexual abuse filed a lawsuit against various city and county officials. The sisters alleged that they were promised anonymity when they discussed the abuse with law enforcement officials in 2006. The lawsuit went on to claim that their privacy had been invaded when Washington County and the city of Springdale released police reports regarding sexual abuse inside the Duggar family home to In Touch Weekly in 2015. The publication was the first to break the story. The sexual abuse was, allegedly, common knowledge among the Duggar family’s insular social circle.

The famous nature of the family made it easy to identify the victims, although not all victims initially identified themselves. Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald appeared on television and revealed that they were, in fact, victims. Jinger Vuolo and Joy-Anna Forsyth did not publicly name themselves as victims. The lawsuit filing confirmed their identities, though. Officials did redact the names of the victims in the released files. The identity of Josh’s fifth victim, known only to be a family friend, is still anonymous.

In June 2017, Josh Duggar, the perpetrator, joined the lawsuit. He later filed his own suit, alleging the release of the information had also caused him emotional distress and unnecessary scrutiny. Federal marshals arrested Josh in April 2021 for receiving and possessing child sexual abuse images. He was found guilty in December 2021 and is awaiting sentencing. 

Judge Timothy L. Brooks dismissed the lawsuit on February 9 

Following the Duggar sisters 2017 filing, things fell quiet regarding the lawsuit. The court initially scheduled a hearing for December 2021. The courts pushed the hearing back due to Josh’s pending criminal trial. On February 9, 2022, Judge Timothy L. Brooks dismissed the lawsuit, noting that the Duggars’ legal team did not prove that officials intended to release the names of the victims of sexual abuse.

Jessa, Jinger, Joy-Anna and Jana Duggar sit for an interview for 'Good Morning America' in 2016 during one of the Duggar family scandals
Jessa Seewald with Spurgeon Seewald, Jinger Vuolo, Joy-Anna Forsyth, and Jana Duggar | Ida Mae Astute/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

While the judge ruled to dismiss the lawsuit, he noted that officials involved in the case did improperly handle the release. According to KAIT 8, Judge Brooks pointed out that officials were “profoundly wrong” about the laws surrounding FOIA requests. 

The name of the federal judge who presided over the lawsuit might sound familiar to Duggar family followers. Judge Timothy L. Brooks is the same federal judge that presided over Josh Duggar’s criminal trial. He will sentence the troubled former reality TV star, too. Sentencing is expected to take place on April 5. 

The Duggar family reacts to the dismissal 

While Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo, and Joy-Anna Forsyth have opted to stay mostly quiet about the lawsuit, Jill Dillard has not. The mother of two, along with her husband, Derick Dillard, released a statement shortly after news of the dismissal broke. 

Jill Duggar Dillard (L) and husband Derick Dillard of the Duggar family smiling on the set of 'Extra'
Jill Duggar Dillard (L) and husband Derick Dillard visit ‘Extra’ | D Dipasupil/Getty Images for Extra

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Jill and Derick took the opportunity to blast one official by name. In the statement posted to their blog, Jill and Derick had harsh words for Kathy O’Kelley. The duo claimed O’Kelley “abused her authority.” They went on to claim that public officials fulfilled a “vendetta” by releasing the files. O’Kelley was the police chief of Springdale, Arkansas, in 2015. 

How to get help: If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 for free and confidential support.