Angelina Jolie won her appeal, got ‘unethical’ Judge Ouderkirk thrown off the case

Angelina Jolie at the First They Killed My Father New York premiere at The DGA Theater

Let’s not go into the lengthy backstory for this, because it’s a lot. So, long story short: last year, Angelina Jolie tried unsuccessfully to have the private judge, John Ouderkirk, on her divorce case thrown off because he lied and failed to disclose that he was doing business with Brad Pitt’s lawyers. Ouderkirk refused to recuse himself from the case, and Ouderkirk went on to deny Angelina’s legal team from calling the kids to testify in their own custody case. Ouderkirk ended up giving Pitt more custody of the kids temporarily. Angelina was pissed off at the system, at Ouderkirk and at Brad. She appealed the case and… she won. The California appeals court sounds appalled at Ouderkirk’s behavior and the ruling about custody has been voided.

Angelina Jolie scored a major victory Friday in her divorce with Brad Pitt when a California appeals court agreed with her that the private judge deciding who gets custody of their children should be disqualified. The 2nd District Court of Appeal agreed with Jolie that Judge John W. Ouderkirk didn’t sufficiently disclose business relationships with Pitt’s attorneys.

“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 that the custody fight over the couple’s five minor children, which was nearing an end, could just be getting started. The judge 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. “The appeals court ruling was based on a technical procedural issue. The facts haven’t changed. There is an extraordinary amount of factual evidence which led the judge — and the many experts who testified — to reach their clear conclusion about what is in the children’s best interests,” a statement by Pitt’s representative said. “We will continue to do what’s necessary legally based on the detailed findings of what’s best for the children.”

Ouderkirk declined to disqualify himself when Jolie asked him to in a filing in August. A lower court judge ruled that Jolie’s request for disqualification came too late. Jolie’s attorneys then appealed. The July 9 oral arguments in front of the appeals court focused on exactly which ethical rules should apply to private judges, who, like Ouderkirk, are usually retired superior court judges. “If you’re going to play the role of a paid private judge you have to play by the rules and the rules are very clear, they require full transparency,” Jolie’s attorney Robert Olson said. “Matters that should have been disclosed were not disclosed.”

Pitt attorney Theodore Boutrous said the attempt at disqualification was a stalling tactic by Jolie to keep Ouderkirk’s recent tentative custody decision, which is favorable to Pitt, from going into effect.

[From THR]

Pitt’s lawyers arguing that “it’s a stalling tactic” makes no sense when the judge is actively dissembling and concealing his unethical behavior favoring Pitt. Brad’s people were running around to smear Angelina once again, and a source told People: “Brad believes there is overwhelming evidence that the current situation isn’t good for the kids. This just sets things back for everyone.” The “current situation” had three of his children willing to testify against him in their custody case, but go off. Pitt’s lawyers have also told everyone that they plan to appeal the appeal. Brad is really arguing that it’s totally fine that his lawyers were in cahoots with the judge and that it’s not weird at all that the judge refused to examine Jolie’s witness testimony or allow the kids to testify.

So, basically, Ouderkirk’s ruling on temporary custody back in May has been nullified and now Jolie and Pitt are back to their old custody agreement, which was that Angelina had primary custody and Brad has more limited visitation. I’m so glad Angelina won this appeal!

United Nations, New York, USA, September 14 2017 - Angelina Jolie...

Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio back in their car on the set of 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red, Backgrid.

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74 Responses to “Angelina Jolie won her appeal, got ‘unethical’ Judge Ouderkirk thrown off the case”

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  1. TIFFANY says:

    Now I am very interested in how Ouderkirk got assigned this case to begin with?

    The penal system is a damn joke.

    • Lara says:

      Because this is a civil case and has nothing at all to do with the “penal system”

    • Katherine says:

      The penal system? What is this Shawshank Redemption? It’s a civil divorce. A messy one but nothing penal or criminal about it.

    • stagaroni says:

      Pitt and Jolie used him as a private Judge and they both agreed to use him. It is common to hire a private judge so that your divorce proceeding remain such. At least, that is what has been reported. They did not tell me personally, so I could be misinformed.

    • terra says:

      @stagaroni beat me to it, but he’s a private judge, so he was hired, not assigned.

  2. Nomegusta says:

    Something serious happened, and one of the older kids is going to tell it eventually if he continues to go after their mother.

    • Sierra says:

      I personally feel that when Brad’s team leaked parts of an agreement back in 2018 making it look like Angelina was conducting parental alienation, she and the children had enough.

      Since then, it’s clear the children don’t want to spend time with an abuser. They can all read and see the horrible smear campaign he has been doing against their mother for years now.

      The fact that at least 3 of the children wants to testify against Brad tells you everything.

      Laura Wasser was crap and always wanted to be part of the men’s club but Samantha thankfully is wonderful.

    • terra says:

      I really shouldn’t be this invested in a case full of people I’ve never met, but I really am.

      When I was a young abused kid I used to soothe myself with the thought of one day being old enough to testify against my mother in a court case, so the idea that those kids wanted to testify and were excluded by a partial judge really gets me in the feels.

      I mention this to agree with you because once I came of age I told EV-ER-Y-ONE. Everyone my mother knows now knows what she did to my father and I. And the press wasn’t interested in me, so when one of those kids breaks? We’ll all know and it’s nothing less than Pitt will deserve.

      • Jezz says:

        I’m so so sorry for you Terra. I came here to comment that children would be traumatized by being asked to testify in their parents divorce, but then I read your comment.

      • terra says:

        @Jezz, thank you so much. It was both a long time ago and no time at all, seeing as my mother’s behavior has not change a bit beyond the physical abuse. She’s still as nasty and histrionic as ever, but at least now I know none of it’s my fault, unlike when I was a child. Not having to live with her anymore helps, too. My eardrums can finally rest!

        And I’m sure you’re right that some kids would be traumatized, but for me being able to tell people was vindication that what I went through actually happened and wasn’t all in my head like my mother tried so hard to make me believe. I’d think something similar for some of the Jolie(-Pitt) kids, what with the media skewing towards Pitt’s side so many times.

        Being able to speak out and correct the record, even in just a court room, might make a big difference for some of the kids, while others might prefer to remain quiet. That the decision was taken from them by a man who stands to gain financially from doing so is maddening.

      • Myjobistoprincess says:

        So sorry for you Terra. I hope if Angie’s kids get to testify as it seems that they would like, you also get your fix. I’m going to be rooting for them with a thought for you.

      • Meg says:

        Wow did we have the same mom? Youre not alone

      • bettyrose says:

        Terra – It sounds like you have every reason to be invested in this case. For better or worse, when a high profile case involving rich/famous people creates a new precedent, there’s a chance that less powerful people will benefit in the future.

      • My kids father is a real life diagnosed Narcissist and vindictive as hell. If he had tried to get custody of my kid (I had full custody from the day he was born) my son, at pretty much any age, would have absolutely had no problem saying, “No, that is not what I want and here’s why…with evidence of abuse..” At a point in his life my son refused to see his dad, and thankfully his father did not fight about it.

        But kids SEE this stuff and they damn well know who they want to live with and honestly, I think testifying (They have people who assist the kids with this) is less traumatizing then ending up with an abuser, or feeling helpless as child that your wishes aren’t being respected. Look at that poor child, Dylan Redwine. He did not want to go visit his dad, and the man murdered him. We need to listen to kids about this.

    • Wyatt says:

      I agree with you Nomegusta, I believe something more serious happen that’s why the children had more therapy.

      • ElleV says:

        i mean, something serious DID happen based on the bare minimum we know about this case – Pitt attacking their mother and brother in a drunken rage and then gaslighting them all in the media for years is serious enough isn’t it?

  3. Oh_Hey says:

    I read about this yesterday and while I can’t say this going on longer is a good look for anyone, that decision for the judge to stay on last year was patently unethical and everyone knew it then.

    At this point (and I say this hoping it’s actually the plan) all the kids including the twins will be old enough to just state their preference and have it honored. Just have them decided what they want in terms of living arrangements and whether or when they visit their dad.

    • stagaroni says:

      Ouderkirk had cases referred to him by Brad Pitt’s attorney(s) for two years, and didn’t disclose those financial ties in the ongoing custody battle. He knew it was a breach of ethics to stay on and not disclose those ties. He did a terrible disservice to everyone involved. Not just the time and money, but the emotional toll it has taken.

      • Lena says:

        What about all the other cases that are opposing Pitt’s lawyers? I guess this means they can get him thrown off their cases as well? Because they (appeals court) basically said you could say he is biased because he’s getting all this work from them. Will this Judge O. end up with no cases?

      • ElleV says:

        the point is that he didn’t disclose his conflicts of interest – the lack of transparency is an ethical breach that should disqualify him

      • Becks1 says:

        Yeah my understanding is that it was the lack of disclosure that was the issue ,not the connections/ties themselves. He should have fully disclosed all conflicts of interest before the case started and presumably (i’m not familar with CA family law so i’m just guessing here) Angelina and her team would have been able to say “nope” and they could have found another judge. The lack of disclosure means they weren’t able to honestly say “yes we agree to him”.

      • stagaroni says:

        @Lena, no those cases will be fine. Only Pitt’s case is affected. In essence, by Pitt’s legal team sending cases to the judge, it created a type of professional relationship that legally and ethically had to be disclosed. Since he did not, it reeks of impropriety. The judge knows his obligations, and he chose to ignore them, and not for the first time.

      • Golly Gee says:

        @stagaroni. There may be other cases where one party has a lawyer that doesn’t do business with the judge and the other party does. If there has been unreasonable delay or absence of disclosure by the judge about other cases he is involved in with one of the lawyers, the other party may be able to take action.
        There were other cases cited in the court ruling.

      • stagaroni says:

        @Thanks GollyGee

    • Isabella says:

      I don’t think Angelina looks bad in this. Brad is dragging it out. Someone has to protect the children no matter how long it takes.

  4. lanne says:

    At this point, Angelina will probably be running out the clock. How many years is it now until the kids are old enough to make their own decisions? Is it age 14?

    • Carmen says:

      Under California family law, they are all old enough to decide for themselves, except for the twins.

    • aang says:

      What I don’t understand is how it is enforced when 12 or 13 year olds don’t want to see one parent. Do the cops show up and drag the kids over to the other parent’s house? If they don’t want to go they don’t want to go.

  5. Sierra says:

    This is huge because the 3 judges voted unanimously and had harsh words for Ouderkirk. They said he breached his ethics vows and also didn’t include the children’s testimony as per law.

    Ouderkirk should’ve just recused himself when Angelina asked him nicely because now, all of his other clients can question him. He has lost his reputation and future income.

    Brad and his team are in shock because they were soo confident that Angelina would lose. Now, this will go to the public court and everyone will see evidence of Brad’s domestic violence. Angelina will never agree to a new private judge so Brad really has no choice but to give her full custody unless he wants his image to be destroyed beyond repair.

    The best thing Angelina did was get rid of Laura Wasser and have Samantha join as her lawyer. Samantha has been brilliant is playing the long game and helping Angelina and the children. This really is checkmate from Angelina & Samantha.

    • Golly Gee says:

      Ouderkirk’s reputation should take a hit, as apparently this isn’t the first time he has been shady in his dealings with clients.
      From AP : “ The court cited several cases, including the divorce of “Modern Family” co-creator Steven Levitan, in which Ouderkirk either failed entirely to disclose a business relationship with Pitt’s attorneys or failed to disclose one quickly or completely enough.”

      • Sierra says:

        Can former clients sue Ouderkirk because of this ruling? It’s clear he has been corrupt for a while now.

      • Golly Gee says:

        Sierra, I was wondering that too, or if he could face some sort of reprimand from whichever regulatory body he answers to. I tried googling to find a transcript of the appellate judges’ ruling to get more information about this, but I was unsuccessful in my search. We need Greta to suss this out!

    • terra says:

      @Sierra That’s what I’m most interested in, too – will this end up in a public court where all of the details will surely come out? I agree with you in that if I were Angelina I’d probably never agree to another private judge, but until a decision is made we just don’t know.

      • Lena says:

        I’ve always felt a little over my head commenting on law, but custody can be bifurcated out in the divorce case, correct? Then if they filed their case publicly it would be under seal, like all custody cases are. That would leave the financial part for a private judge, because I’m sure they don’t want that public either. I doubt if Pitt is going to just let the old custody arrangement stand after all this. By the way, Texas always has this ethical problem because the judges are elected and whomever has the big bucks to contribute to their campaign will win.

      • Sierra says:

        True, we won’t know what she will do but she and the children definitely have the upper hand now.

        I personally will force Brad to choose either to go to the public court or sign off full physical and legal custody over to Angelina. He can get visitation rights only if the children want to.

    • Desical says:

      You can read the actual court decision –

      It did not address the children’s ability to testify. It was focused on the judge’s ethical obligations and whether any lapse could result in disqualification.

    • Poisonella says:

      Angelina Jolie is no dummy.

  6. Myra says:

    The most telling part of the divorce for me is not the custody issue because I feel that was resolved a long time ago, until Brad recently asked for a modification. It’s the fact that it’s more than five years and she has still not been able to separate her financial assets from his. This is super sketchy and it’s great news that the judge is no longer on the case. I’m sure there will be some initial delays but hopefully she can finally break free from him. I’m sure Brad is sweating bullets now because she doesn’t have to agree on a private judge.

    • Gail Hirst says:

      I think this all has something to do with PITT’S New Orleans Katrina housing scam. The people he screwed cannot access his money whilst it’s tied up with hers? Or something? I could be remembering this wrong. He wants to keep his finances tied up with hers; it will be another way he could screw her.

  7. Digital Unicorn says:

    Go AJ – I have always felt that Pitt will be outed as another Depp, she might not want to do it willingly but if she doesn’t (in a public court) one of the kids will. We all know he got physical with one of the children, who intervened to protect his mother – makes you wonder what else went on.

    • NotSoSocialButterfly says:

      I’ve had those exact thoughts for a long time now. It *will* blow open, eventually.

    • iconoclast59 says:

      I have a feeling Brad is verbally/psychologically abusive. He displays a sense of humor that is sarcastic, with put-downs embedded in the “joke.” I remember when Friends was coming to an end; Jennifer Aniston was still married to Brad. NBC had a special (I think it was on Dateline?) and asked all the cast members, “Who do you think will be crying when you do the final episode?” Every single one of them said, “Oh, that’ll be Jen.” Even Jennifer herself said, “Yeah, me.” Anyway, a story came out not too long after saying that Brad’s nickname for Jennifer was “The Leaker” because she’s so easily moved to tears. It struck me as being very mean-spirited.

      • North of Boston says:

        Wasn’t JA the one who described BP as “missing a sensitivity chip”?

        So, yeah.

  8. #facts says:

    This is so sad. One because Angelina has been vilified for everything once she decided to get involved with this man. I can only imagine the relief she feels now.
    His team of everything including bots snd Ticky has done the most including smear her in the media and lie. I honestly do believe this began simple but has turn into a mess because they thought they could bully, wear down. Blacklist and money and power could make Pitt victorious. At this point has to e has taken a huge hit in his purse bad image. And Ouderclown just hurt himself for him.
    The saddest part of it all is it could have been done easily and sooner. The minute they leaked that document in 2918 where his lawyers went to court and Ouderkirk gave a detailed decision telling Angie she had to make those children want to be with Pitt I knew this was a mess. How could she make teenagers want to spend time . As she responded about his lies and said she had done all she could it was up to the courts and him to do the work explains all of this. Not wanting to put in the work began with him even with his addictions.

    • Steph says:

      My dad used to threaten me that if I didn’t visit him, my mom would be thrown in jail for contempt of court.
      Of course as an adult I realized it wasn’t the court that was following up or making those threats, it was HIM threatening me in order to abuse both of us. When I was 16 I defended myself by slapping him back and after that he didn’t want to see me bc I was “violent”.

      I should have slapped him at 14.

      • Vernie says:

        Oh Steph, that sounds so traumatic. I’m glad you got free of that awful situation. Hugs to you.

  9. Woke says:

    By the time all of this is sort out the kids will be able to make a decision for themselves.
    Brad insistence to fight Angie is pushing the kids closer to their mother and his ego won’t let him see that.

    • Green Desert says:

      Seriously. This is all so telling. This is continuation of abusive behavior on Brad’s part. If he were truly a changed person it seems to me he would stop fighting Angelina, accept the terms, and try to salvage any relationship he could with his kids. Gah – I kind of wish the details would come out so that people could see him for who he really is. But who am I kidding – he’d still have his rabid supporters.

  10. TheOriginalMia says:

    I cheered last night when I saw the news. It’s about time that judge was ousted. He didn’t care about those kids. Just continuing his money grift through referrals from Pitt and company. So happy for Angie & the kids. They’ll finally be heard and hopefully, this is it. Angie can free herself from Brad financially and the kids can have some peace of mind about their situation as well.

  11. Twin falls says:

    I admire her resolve to keep fighting. It’s no small feat.

    • Andrea1 says:

      Exactly this!
      She has endured the bullying from Pitt and his legal team and the smear campaign from the media she is really a strong woman and doesn’t get enough credit for it. She didn’t back down kudos Angie!

    • Dierski says:

      I admire her resolve too – she is such a fighter. I believe that when she fights on behalf of protecting her children, she will never back down or lost steam because she draws her strength directly from them. This is great news, and I’m happy for her as the proceedings continue.

      Keep on fighting the good fight, AJ!!!

  12. Andrea1 says:

    This news made my day yesterday I am super happy for Angie she deserves something good after all Brad and the media has put her through in the last five years. No matter the how he tries to front for the media and believing he can win this war I say it’s game over for him. When Angie agreed to a private judge she did it in good faith whilst he had ulterior motives but I believe Angie knows better than to allow that happen again. I say take this to the public courts that way nothing has to come from her mouth but the documents will speak for itself and expose Brad once and for all.

  13. Lily P says:

    Good. His actions and refusal to recuse himself last august meant that these poor kids have been exposed to an unfair and biased legal process. I’m glad she held him to account and I hope the best interest of the children are able to be met in an impartial courtroom.

    Also if BP is so convinced he has enough evidence to prove his case this removal of a bias judge should have no standing and the same conclusion will be arrived at. I’m guessing that’s not the case.

  14. MarJo says:

    So this is going to public court now? I suppose Brad will be ready to settle then.

  15. Lively says:

    There’s no way Brad is going to take this to public court they’ll be a leak and he’ll be exposed as the abusive alcoholic he is.
    His worse than Depp, this man put 6 children in danger and send them to years of therapy.
    What’s very telling is the fact the kids starting to take boxing and karate, therapist recommend kids in an abusive situations to take self défense activities so they feel empowered.
    Brad Pitt cannot lose his adoring fans and Hollywood that’s all he has left. No more court for custody adjustments he’ll take what time the kids give him if that.

  16. Kikig says:

    The article about this in yesterday’s Guardian had this as its penultimate paragraph;
    “ The actress also said the judge “has 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.”
    That’s the most telling comment I’ve read on this whole mess.

  17. nina says:

    IF A J was a man she would be praised to high heaven for her efforts to protect her children. Men are intimidated by women like her and feel the need to take her down, lest other women are inspired by women like her.

  18. Jess says:

    The fact that he’s openly going to appeal is so telling. If the facts were on his side, any impartial judge would be fine. This is all so gross. Thank god Angelina is such a strong woman and protective mother.

  19. lucy2 says:

    Wow, I’m really surprised by this, I figured it would be very, very difficult to get a judge removed. Good for her.

  20. Wrin says:

    If my children – regardless of their ages – didn’t want to see me, I wouldn’t force it.

    • Sidewithkids says:

      It’s not about the children for him tho. It’s about public perception, his image and making Angie feel bad about leaving him and choosing the kids over his lame behind. He only wants people to believe he’s fighting for them and Angie is preventing him from seeing them. Total BS.

    • Isabella says:

      He also gains some control over Angie’s life, I think. She may need his permission to take them overseas even on vacation.

  21. Kay says:

    Hope Angelina gets to spend the summer in France in her house with the kids. She can finally sort out the finances of the divorce which she has been unable to do.

    Let us not forget those Hollywood women who supported Brad – Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Julia Roberts, Margot Robbie, Laura Dern and the rest who helped undermine another woman.

  22. Kay says:

    Some Angelina Jolie fans seems to enjoy undermining Megan and Harry. They both deserve support because of the racism and abuse they have faced from members of the royal family and the right wing British press. H&M and their children receive abuse on a daily basis from the press and so many stories written about them are not true. They are taking control of their lives and using their own voice to express themselves. You should support everyone who has received abuse and challenge it and that includes Megan and Harry.

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      So true. Both Angelina and H & M’s abusers have a complicit relationship with areas of the press/tabloids that try to make it sound like the ones being abused are constanly going to press. If that makes sense.

      Good to see Ouderkirk was thrown off the case. I hope his and Pitt’s reputations take a hit.