The Judge in Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Custody Case Has Been Disqualified
Update 07/23/21: People reports that Judge John Ouderkirk has been disqualified from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's custody case. According to an opinion from by three appellate judges, which was submitted on Friday, July 23, Ouderkirk "violated his ethical obligations."
The panel mentioned Ouderkirk's "failure to make mandatory disclosures" about additional legal proceedings involving Pitt's legal counseling, which "might cause an objective person, aware of all of the facts."
Previously, Ouderkirk awarded Pitt more time with his children Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, and twins Vivienne and Knox. However, People adds that it's unclear whether or not anything really changed, since official custody arrangements remained the same.
"A few weeks ago, the judge's decision came down after a month-long trial," an insider said at the time. "Brad has been awarded significantly more time with the kids. He had had very limited time before."
A separate source close to Pitt told People that he "has always wanted what is best for the kids, and to spend time with them."
Update 5/26/21: Brad Pitt has been granted joint custody of his children with Angelina Jolie, Page Six reports. A source told the outlet it was a "tentative decision," adding that Jolie is continuing her legal fight.
"Joint custody is not the issue that Angelina objects to, there were other issues of concern, but the court proceedings are closed and sealed," a source said.
Update 11/17/20: Angelina Jolie has lost her bid to remove the judge from her divorce proceedings from Brad Pitt. According to documents acquired by DailyMail.com, the Superior Court of California in Orange County ruled that "Judge Ouderkirk is not disqualified from serving as a temporary judge in this case. There, the State of Disqualification is DENIED."
Jolie previously filed a motion claiming that Ouderkirk "failed to disclose the cases that demonstrated the current, ongoing, repeat-customer relationship between the judge and Respondent's counsel."
Update 8/27/20: Judge John W. Ouderkirk has responded to Angelina Jolie's request, in court documents obtained by ET, writing that he has no personal bias or prejudice concerning any party' attorney or any other person participating in the case.
He denied under penalty of perjury that he has failed to disclose multiple professional, business, and financial relationships.
"I will continue to consider accepting other cases as other additional cases may arise from time to time while the Jolie/Pitt case is still pending. Such other cases might involve party, lawyer' law firm and/or witnesses involved in the Jolie/Pitt matter," Ouderkirk stated.
Update 8/20/20: Angelina Jolie's lawyer has released a statement regarding her request to have a judge removed from her divorce proceedings from Brad Pitt. "All my client is asking for is a fair trial based on facts, with no special favors extended to either side," Samantha Bley DeJean said in a statement to Us Weekly. "The only way litigants can trust the process is for everyone involved to ensure that there's transparency and impartiality."
Update 8/13/20: Angelina Jolie is reportedly concerned "something untoward" is going on in her divorce proceedings from Brad Pitt, after she filed paperwork to have the private judge removed over a link between him and other cases involving Pitt's attorney.
"Angelina isn't trying to delay this process. In fact, the court papers state that she wants to get this issue with the judge resolved so there are no further delays [in deciding custody and financial issues like child support]," a source told Page Six.
Back in 2016, Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from her then-husband, Brad Pitt. Today, according to the Associated Press, Jolie requested that John W. Ouderkirk, the private judge handling the divorce, be removed from the case. In a filing presented to Los Angeles Superior Court, Jolie stated that Ouderkirk was too late coming forward with information that linked him to other cases involving Anne C. Kiley, Pitt's attorney.
Court documents say that during his time with the Jolie-Pitt case, Ouderkirk "failed to disclose the cases that demonstrated the current, ongoing, repeat-customer relationship between the judge and Respondent's counsel."
Pitt's attorney "actively advocated for Judge Ouderkirk's financial interests in moving — over the opposing party's opposition — to have his appointment (and his ability to continue to receive fees) extended in a high profile case," the documents continue.
Like many other high-profile couples, Jolie and Pitt are opting to use a private judge in their case. By opting for that course of action, the two can keep all the personal and financial details of the case away from the public record. While it won't keep everything sealed — some legal action is still done according to standard court procedure — it's much more private than using the standard operating procedures.
Jolie's latest move underscores her thoughts that a private judge is still required to follow the rules of disclosure and conflict of interest issues that any other judges would. The filing notes, "it doesn't matter if Judge Ouderkirk is actually biased. Under California law disqualification is required so long as a person aware of the facts 'might reasonably entertain a doubt' about Judge Ouderkirk's ability to remain impartial."
April of 2019, Jolie and Pitt requested a "bifurcated judgment," which allowed them to be declared single, even though they were still going through divorce proceedings. Back in 2018, Jolie claimed that Pitt wasn't paying the required child support. His attorneys disputed the accusation, saying that Jolie's filing was "an effort to manipulate media coverage of the split."
Jolie and Pitt were together for 12 years and married for two.