The California Court of Appeal ruled that the judge is out, a source exclusively tells Us. “The case has been sent back to the Los Angeles Superior Court. Judge Ouderkirk is no longer involved and Angelina is grateful to seek a fair decision regarding custody for the children,” the insider revealed.
The court is mandating that the superior court “vacate” its November 2020 order “denying Jolie’s statement of disqualification” and instead must “make a new order disqualifying Judge Ouderkirk,” according to court documents filed on Friday, July 23.
The change in judge means that the Maleficent star’s current custody agreement with Pitt, 57, could be tossed out and the proceedings could start all over again.
However, the removal of Ouderkirk hasn’t phased Pitt. “The appeals court ruling was based on a technical procedural issue. The facts haven’t changed,” a spokesperson for the Moneyball actor told Us in a statement on Friday. “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.”
The statement continued, “We will continue to do what’s necessary legally based on the detailed findings of what’s best for the children.”
In their 44-page opinion published on Friday, the appellate court justices wrote that judge Ouderkirk failed his ethical duty by not timely disclosing the ongoing cases he was still overseeing as a private judge that also involved Pitt’s attorneys.
They said a temporary judge is not like a private arbitrator, and therefore he had the duty to make those mandatory disclosures “promptly.” The justices added that the Ouderkirk was trying to blame Alternative Resolution Centers, the private company that assigns cases to private judges, but “it was he who was appointed a temporary judge and assumed the ethical obligations associated with that role.”
They continued, “No more than an attorney can excuse his or her misconduct by blaming an assistant, Judge Ouderkirk must accept responsibility for the ethical violation that occurred here.”
The justices added that, in their opinion, the judge should be removed because “a temporary judge, unlike a private arbitrator, performs public judicial functions, protecting the integrity of the proceedings by promptly making mandatory disclosures is even more important.”
Jolie, 46, and the Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star split in September 2016 after two years of marriage. They share six children: Maddox, 19, Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 15, and twins Knox and Vivienne, 12.
The Salt actress asked for Ouderkirk to step down from the divorce case in August 2020, alleging at the time that the judge failed to disclose “ongoing business and professional relationships” with her ex-husband’s legal team.
Pitt insisted at the time that there was a “well-documented history” between Ouderkirk and the actors, as the judge officiated the pair’s 2014 nuptials.
Ouderkirk responded to the claims in detail, saying, “The Objection to my continued service does not change my ability to objectively view and evaluate the evidence presented by both sides and apply the law impartially.” He noted in previous court documents that Jolie had “clearly failed” to prove any form of bias in the case.
Earlier this year, Jolie filed additional documents alleging that the judge refused to hear evidence she believed was pertinent to the case, including her children’s testimonies.
“Judge Ouderkirk denied Ms. Jolie a fair trial, improperly excluding her evidence relevant to the children’s health, safety, and welfare, evidence critical to making her case,” the documents obtained by Us in May claimed.
The documents stated that “the children whose custody is at issue are old enough to understand what is going on,” noting that “three of the children have asked to testify.”
The same month, Pitt was granted joint custody of the former spouses’ six children, despite Jolie’s objection.
“She will never forgive him,” a source told Us in June. “She maintains it’s far from over and still believes that justice will prevail.”
With reporting by Jennifer Heger and Marjorie Hernandez