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.”
Judge Ouderkirk has 10 days to respond to the filing, which was submitted on August 7.
A staffer in Judge Ouderkirk’s office, when reached for comment, said, “No matter how many times you call, we are not going to comment.”
Reps for Jolie — who is in Hollywood during the lockdown but is continuing with her humanitarian work for refugees in her role as UNHCR special envoy — did not comment.
Her attorney Samantha Bley DeJean said in a statement, “As is set forth in the filing, all my client is asking for is a fair trial based on facts, with no special favors extended to either side. The only way litigants can trust the process is for everyone involved to ensure that there is transparency and impartiality.”
Pitt’s attorneys, Anne C. Kiley and Lance Spiegel, didn’t return calls for comment.