Jolie seeks removal of private judge in Pitt divorce case

Angelina Jolie has asked that the private judge overseeing her divorce from Brad Pitt be disqualified from the case because of insufficient disclosures of his business relationships with one of Pitt’s lawyers.

In a filing in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jolie said Judge John W Ouderkirk should be taken off the case she filed in 2016 because he was too late and not forthcoming enough about other cases he was hired for involving Pitt lawyer Anne C Kiley.

It says that during the Jolie-Pitt proceedings Judge Ouderkirk has “failed to disclose the cases that demonstrated the current, ongoing, repeat-customer relationship between the judge and respondent’s counsel”.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Angelina Jolie (Ian West/PA)</figcaption>
Angelina Jolie (Ian West/PA)

It adds that Ms Kiley “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”.

Pitt and Jolie, like other high-profile couples, are paying for a private judge in their divorce case to keep many of its filings and the personal and financial details sealed, though some legal moves must be made within standard court procedure.

Jolie’s filing emphasises that a private judge must follow the same rules of disclosure and conflict of interest as other judges.

The filing says “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”.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Brad Pitt (David Parry/PA)</figcaption>
Brad Pitt (David Parry/PA)

Jolie’s lawyers have sought in private proceedings to have Judge Ouderkirk disqualify himself, but the filing says Pitt’s side has insisted on keeping him.

The Hollywood couple were declared divorced, and the Pitt was dropped from Jolie’s name, in April 2019 after their lawyers asked for a bifurcated judgment, meaning two married people can be declared single while other issues, including finances and child custody, remain.

Because most of the documents have been sealed, it is not clear what issues remain unresolved, but Jolie filed papers in 2018 saying Pitt was not paying sufficient child support, which his lawyers disputed, calling the filing an effort to manipulate media coverage of the split.

Jolie, 44, and Pitt, 56, were a couple for 12 years and married for two until Jolie filed for divorce in 2016. They have six children.