FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (CN) – Citing First Amendment protections, a federal judge on Thursday dismissed In Touch Weekly from a lawsuit revolving around the publication of investigative reports detailing claims that reality TV star Josh Duggar sexually abused four of his sisters.
The sisters and former reality TV stars from the canceled TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” – Jill Dillard, Jessa Seewald, Jinger Vuolo and Joy Duggar – sued Bauer Media Group and its subsidiaries in May for invasion of privacy. Josh filed his own lawsuit the following month where he makes the same claims as his younger sisters.
The Duggar sisters say they were all under the age of 16 when Springdale, Arkansas, police began investigating allegations that they had been sexually assaulted by their brother, Josh. All five of them claim that police investigators promised their statements would remain confidential and not be disclosed to the public, a claim disputed by Springdale.
The statute of limitations barred criminal charges from being filed against Josh.
According to the two lawsuits, In Touch’s posting of the under-redacted reports amounted to a clear and unwarranted invasion of their right to privacy. The four sisters and Josh claimed the gossip magazine continued to report on the police documents even after a judge found that they were confidential and not subject to Freedom of Information Act disclosure.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks ruled Thursday that the magazine was entitled to assume that the information released was a matter of public significance, “since it was disclosed by public entities.”
“The Bauer defendants cannot be held liable for the city’s and county’s failure to follow the law,” Brooks wrote in a 16-page ruling.
Last week, the judge refused to throw out individual-capacity claims against officials in Washington County and Springdale in the Duggar sisters’ lawsuit.
In that ruling, Brooks determined that the sisters had a “legitimate expectation” of confidentiality and privacy. All three officials have appealed the decision.
Josh’s allegations against the county and city were dismissed in Thursday’s ruling for failure to state a claim.
Bauer Publishing Group publicist Lindsay Fariello did not immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment.