KEY POINTS

  • Judge John Ouderkirk has been removed from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s divorce case
  • Pitt's spokesperson said the ruling was based on a "technical procedural issue," but "the facts haven’t changed"
  • One divorce attorney said Ouderkirk "screwed up" when he failed to "disclose potential conflict"

Brad Pitt plans to fight the decision to remove Judge John W. Ouderkirk from his and ex-wife Angelina Jolie's divorce and custody case.

The "Maleficent" star scored a big win Friday when the California Court of Appeal disqualified Ouderkirk, who had granted Pitt joint custody of their five minor children in a preliminary decision in May. The court ruled that Ouderkirk didn't sufficiently disclose his business relationships with Pitt's attorneys, Page Six reported.

The ruling rendered Ouderkirk's May custody decision effectively moot. Jolie retains full custody of their children, while Pitt has visitation rights, the outlet said.

However, the removal of the judge hasn't phased Pitt. "The appeals court ruling was based on a technical procedural issue," a spokesperson for the actor said in a statement to Page Six following Ouderkirk's disqualification. 

"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 best in the children’s best interests," the rep continued. "We will continue to do what’s necessary legally based on the detailed findings of what’s best for the children."

In the ruling obtained by Page Six, the 2nd District Court of Appeal said, "The person on the street might reasonably entertain a doubt as to Judge Ouderkirk’s ability, consciously or subconsciously, to remain impartial in the upcoming, hotly contested custody dispute." 

"None of Pitt’s arguments that a reasonable person would not have cause to doubt Judge Ouderkirk’s impartiality withstands scrutiny," they continued.

Citing Ouderkirk's "ethical breach" and "recent professional relationships with Pitt's counsel," the court ruled that "disqualification is required."

Jolie and Pitt 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.

Jolie asked for Ouderkirk to step down from their case in August last year, alleging at the time that the judge failed to disclose "ongoing business and professional relationships" with her ex-husband’s legal team.

However, a lower court judge ruled that the actress' request for disqualification came too late. Her attorneys then appealed.

Marin County divorce attorney Brent Kaspar, founder and managing partner at Kaspar & Lugay law firm, weighed in on the court's decision.

"Judge Ouderkirk screwed up. The rule is that under California judicial ethics there is an absolute, ironclad obligation to disclose potential conflict — and that includes any financial interests. What appears to have happened is that Ouderkirk was getting cases referred to him by Brad Pitt’s counsel, and for two years he did not continue to disclose these financial ties," Kaspar, who appears to be unrelated to the former couple's case, said in a statement to International Business Times.

He continued, "Ouderkirk contended it was an administrative error, but argued that it was not material because he’s previously disclosed similar engagements with Pitt’s firm. That’s just not enough, which you can see from the Appellate Court’s ruling. The perception of bias is the real concern here. The judicial system doesn’t work if the public doesn’t trust the fact-finders, and this applies to both public and private judges. The Appellate Court wants to protect the public’s view of all judges by ensuring they are making these crucial disclosures."

brad-pitt After 15 years, it looks like Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt's friendship is now growing again. Photo: DoD News Features [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]