Earlier this week, we heard that Angelina Jolie’s divorce attorney had filed paperwork to get a private judge thrown off the Jolie-Pitt divorce case. Angelina and Brad Pitt hired a private judge, John W. Ouderkirk, to oversee their divorce years ago. The idea behind hiring a private judge is that rich and famous people can keep things more civil and they don’t have to make their court filings public. There’s more secrecy in general, especially for contentious and long-winded divorces. The problem, according to Jolie’s attorney, was that Judge Ouderkirk has a long-standing financial arrangement with Brad’s lawyers, and this arrangement was not disclosed. In fact, Ouderkirk and Pitt’s lawyers tried to hide it. Pitt’s side ran to Page Six and claimed that Angelina is trying to get Ouderkirk thrown off the case because Pitt is “winning” the divorce. I would assume that Pitt is winning… because the judge is so biased. Anyway, I guess the filing just became public because wow, this new Page Six story is something else:
Angelina Jolie questioned the judge presiding over her and Brad Pitt’s divorce because she was “concerned that something untoward was happening.” Jolie filed court papers to have the private judge disqualified from their case after her lawyer Samantha Bley DeJean discovered Judge John W. Ouderkirk had an ongoing professional and financial relationship with Pitt’s attorneys Anne C. Kiley and Lance Spiegel, which allegedly was their “little secret”.
Jolie and Pitt have a bifurcated divorce, which means they are legally divorced, but still need to decide child custody and all financial issues with the help of a private judge. They have six kids, although the eldest, Maddox is an adult, aged 19. A source said, “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].”
The papers, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, state that there were “matters that Judge Ouderkirk did not ultimately disclose until [Jolie’s] counsel conducted her own inquiry into missing disclosures,” which “left [Jolie] without an … [understanding] of the professional relationship between the judge and [Pitt’s] counsel.” Angelina’s attorney, “on her own initiative, discovered the truth of what should have been disclosed long before,” the filing adds.
Jolie’s legal team was told that, from 2012 to 2013, Judge Ouderkirk “had heard a few cases involving [Pitt’s] counsel, but that in recent years he had only undertaken one or two cases that settled without his involvement. “Hidden was the fact that Judge Ouderkirk’s relationship with Respondent’s counsel had continued and expanded into 2020.” It is believed the judge had worked on numerous undisclosed cases for Pitt’s lead attorney Spiegel and one for his other attorney Kiley.
Jolie’s lawyer found out that one of these cases, the bitter divorce between “Modern Family” co-creator and executive producer Steve Levitan and wife Krista, “had not in fact settled in 2018 as had been represented by the judge’s disclosures. Rather, Judge Ouderkirk’s appointment was extended from June 20, 2019 to August 1, 2020.” The Levitan case and another case was declared by Ouderkirk’s office in 2018, “but erroneously indicated that both were settled,” the papers say. The papers state that “several cases” in 2019 and 2020 which Judge Ouderkirk was presiding over for Pitt’s attorney “were not disclosed at all.” When Judge Ouderkirk was asked by Jolie’s team why he did not disclose these cases, “he [appeared] to concede that he had a duty to do so. And his failure to do so was an ‘error,’” the papers state.
Given that there were “ever-increasing business relationships between Judge Ouderkirk and [Pitt’s] counsel — relationships that were providing a steady stream of income to Judge Ouderkirk and the potential for future work … These are precisely the type of repeat customer circumstances that create doubts about a privately-compensated private judge’s ability to remain impartial.” Private judges typically earn between $500 and $1,000 an hour.
However, “No one thought to let [Jolie] know. Instead, it was a little secret between Judge Ouderkirk and [Pitt’s] counsel.” And, “as is often true, the cover-up (or perceived cover-up) drives home the concern that something untoward is happening,” the court papers state.
Jolie’s attorneys are now demanding that “disqualification is the required remedy for the private judge’s failure to disclose ongoing financial and professional relationships with respondent’s counsel which create at least a doubt about impartiality.”
Basically, there are two shady things happening at once, and either is cause to have Judge Ouderkirk thrown off the case. The first shady thing is that Ouderkirk is basically a judge-for-hire specifically for Spiegel and Kelly, that most of the private cases he’s taken on have been for those two attorneys, and they’ve always been long, drawn-out affairs which see the judge raking in hundreds (if not thousands) of billable hours. The second shady thing is that Judge Ouderkirk failed to disclose this ongoing relationship with Spiegel and Kelly, and in fact he outright lied or falsified his disclosures/records in dealing with other divorce cases (with Spiegel and Kelly as lawyers). Jolie has every right to want him thrown off the case. I would not be surprised if there was a movement by Samantha DeJean to impeach the judge.
Photos courtesy of Backgrid.