Appeals Court divided in dismissing Jaycee Dugard lawsuit

A divided U.S. appeals court Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by kidnapping victim Jaycee Dugard against the federal government for failing to supervise her captor when he was on parole from another kidnapping in the years before she was abducted.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said by a 2-1 vote that Dugard could not sue over the alleged failure to supervise Phillip Garrido in the three years before she was kidnapped in 1991 because she was not a “specifically identifiable victim” at the time.

Dugard’s lawsuit claimed that if federal parole officials had supervised Garrido properly, they would have revoked his parole and sent him back to prison for numerous instances of drug use and other violations, thus making him unable to kidnap her.

Dugard, now 35, was kidnapped at age 11 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido on the morning of June 10, 1991, as she walked to a school bus stop outside her home in South Lake Tahoe.

She was kept captive in sheds and tents in the backyard of their house near Antioch for 18 years, was repeatedly raped by Phillip Garrido and gave birth to two daughters when she was 14 and 17.

Dugard and her daughters were discovered and freed in 2009 after Garrido raised suspicions when he brought the two girls with him to the University of California at Berkeley campus to seek an event permit.

Both Garridos pleaded guilty in El Dorado County Superior Court in 2011 to charges of kidnapping and rape. Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years in prison and Nancy Garrido to 36 years to life.

Garrido was on federal parole from 1988 to 1999 after being released early from a 50-year prison sentence for the 1976 kidnapping and rape of a South Lake Tahoe woman. In 1999, the parole supervision responsibility was transferred to the state of California.

Dugard filed the lawsuit against the federal government in U.S.

District Court in San Francisco in 2011. The appeals court majority today upheld a lower court decision that dismissed the case in 2013.

Circuit Judges Richard Clifton and John Owens said in a brief ruling that parole officials can be sued for failing to carry out their duties only by people who were identifiable victims at the time of the alleged failure.

Judge William Smith, a federal district judge from Rhode Island temporarily assigned to the appeals court, said in a 29-page dissent that parole officials’ duty should extend to victims who are foreseeable, even if not specifically identifiable.

Establishing such a legal duty would promote “greater care, vigilance, and concern for the safety of foreseeable victims,” Smith wrote.

Dugard could appeal for further review by an 11-judge panel of the circuit court. Jonathan Steinsapir, a lawyer for Dugard, said he could not comment on the ruling or on whether a further appeal is planned.

Separately, Dugard received a $20 million settlement from the state of California in 2010 for failures in the state parole supervision between 1999 and 2009.

In 2011, Dugard published a memoir of her abduction and captivity entitled “A Stolen Life.” Her second book, “My Book of Firsts,” describing her experiences after captivity, is due to be published in July.