Why did the Appeals Court Disqualify Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce judge?



On Friday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal, agreed that the judge presiding over Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s divorce case should be disqualified from the case. Angelina Jolie had said that Judge John W. Ouderkirk has not sufficiently disclosed his business relationships with Brad Pitt’s lawyers. This was a victory for Jolie as the custody battle between the former husband and wife continues. The couple had hired a private judge to rule in the matter of their divorce proceedings.


The court ruled that Judge Ouderkirk’s ethical breach, in consideration with information disclosed concerning his recent professional relationship with Pitt’s attorneys might cause an objective person, who was aware of all the facts, to have doubts about the impartiality of the judge. The court ruled that “Disqualification is required.” The private judge had already given a ruling that the couple were divorced. However, the custody battle remains.


Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have six children; five of who are minor. They are


  1. Maddox, 19
  2. Pax, 17
  3. Zahara, 16
  4. Shiloh, 15
  5. Vivienne (twin), 12
  6. Knox (twin), 12


In a filing last August, Jolie requested Judge Ouderkirk to step down, but he refused to do so. A lower court ruled that the request by Jolie for disqualification came too late. Her attorneys appealed and Friday’s ruling was in her favor.



Jolie’s attorney Robert Olson said that the role of a private, paid judge required him to play by the rules and the rules were very clear: they required full transparency. He said that matters that had to be disclosed were not disclosed.


Pitt’s attorney Theodore Boutrous said that it was a stalling tactic by Jolie as she did not want the judge’s tentative decision to go into effect. The judge was considering a custody decision that would favor Pitt. Incidentally the judge has been a part of both their lives from years as he officiated their wedding in 2014. He was hired to judge the dissolution of their wedding in 2016 when Jolie filed for divorce.


In April 2019, the judge declared them divorced as both their attorneys asked him to pass a judgement that allowed a married couple to be declared single. Meanwhile, other issues including finances and custody of their children would remain and judgement on these issues would be passed over a period of time.

Image Gage Skidmore

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