Win for Jolie as court disqualifies private judge in Pitt divorce case
A California appeals court had disqualified a private judge being used by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in their divorce case, handing Jolie a major victory.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with her that Judge John W Ouderkirk did not sufficiently disclose business relationships with Pitt’s lawyers.
“Judge Ouderkirk’s ethical breach, considered together with the information disclosed concerning his recent professional relationships with Pitt’s counsel, might cause an objective person, aware of all the facts, reasonably to entertain a doubt as to the judge’s ability to be impartial. Disqualification is required,” the court ruled.
The decision means the custody fight over the couple’s five children, which was nearing an end, could be starting over.
The judge had already ruled the pair divorced, but separated the child custody issues.
Like many celebrity couples, Pitt and Jolie opted to hire their own judge to increase their privacy in the divorce proceedings.
Judge Ouderkirk declined to disqualify himself when Jolie asked him to in a filing in August. A lower court judge ruled that her request came too late. Jolie’s lawyers then appealed.
Jolie, 46, and Pitt, 57, were among Hollywood’s most prominent couples for 12 years. They had been married for two years when Jolie filed for divorce in 2016.
They were declared divorced in April 2019 after their lawyers asked for a judgment that allowed a married couple to be declared single while other issues remained, including finances and child custody.
In May, Jolie and her lawyers criticised Judge Ouderkirk for not allowing the couple’s children to give evidence in the proceedings.
The actress also said the judge “failed to adequately consider” a section of the California courts code, which says it is detrimental to the best interest of the child if custody is awarded to a person with a history of domestic violence.
Her filing did not give details about what it was referring to, but her lawyers submitted a document under seal in March that purportedly offers additional information.
The ruling does not address whether the children should be allowed to give evidence.