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Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s long-running divorce celebrity entered a new phase of complications on Friday when their large legal team went to a California Court of Appeals to argue for Jolie’s attempt to dump their private judge and start over on their nearly five year-old custody battle.
There was no immediate decision from the panel of three justices after more than an hour back and forth between power lawyers Robert Olson for Jolie and Ted Boutrous for Pitt.
Jolie’s lawyer said Judge John Ouderkirk, the judge who married Jolie and Pitt in 2014, who was chosen by both stars to preside as a paid private judge over their divorce in 2016, should now be fired because he did not fully disclose out in a timely manner professional links to one of Pitt’s attorneys.
“If you have to play the role of a paid private judge, you have to play by the rules, and the rules are very clear, they require full transparency,” Olson said. “Things that should have been revealed were not revealed …. If rules have no consequences, they are empty.”
Pitt’s attorney argued that Jolie is engaging in a stagnant tactic because she dislikes Ouderkirk’s previous decisions in the case, including granting Pitt temporary joint custody of their children.
If Ouderkirk is dismissed, his previous decisions in the case could be overturned, a new judge would be appointed and the case would be further slowed down, allowing more of the couple’s six children to reach adulthood (son Maddox is 19), at. which point they can make their own choices about a relationship with their father.
Their other children are Pax, 17, Zahara, 16, Shiloh, 15, and twins Vivienne and Knox, 12.
“This is the kind of game that the courts condemn,” said Boutrous, a first-time attorney who recently persuaded a New York judge to allow a tea-wasting book about former President Donald Trump to be published by his niece. over his objections. .
Boutrous insisted that Jolie, “a sophisticated person with sophisticated lawyers,” constantly knew about cases requiring publication from Ouderkirk, but did not raise objections until she began to lose in her court.
“These children are aging, some are already adults, others are reaching adulthood, and it is extremely unfair and extremely unfair to allow this delaying tactic,” for them and Pitt, Boutrous said.
The attorneys and judges involved close legal arguments about precedents and previous decisions in similar cases and occasionally wandered into questions about whether California should even allow private judges to be compensated.
Jolie requested Ouderkirk’s dismissal in August 2020, claiming he was not impartial because of professional connections between him and Pitt’s lawyers. She lost that bid in the Superior Court in November. The hearing on Friday was to hear her appeal of that decision.
Normally, an appeal decision could be expected in about a month. When the hearing closed, Olson pleaded that the court’s decision be made public.
Divorce cases in California, especially celebrity cases and cases brought under the direction of a private judge, often take place behind closed doors and are not available online, even before the COVID-19 pandemic closed courthouses. Much of the divorce from Jolie / Pitt has been closed to the public.
The appeal process before the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles concerned the judge, not the divorce, so it was streamed live.
Christopher Melcher, a Los Angeles attorney who was not involved in the Jolie / Pitt case and who followed the entire procedure, told the United States today that disqualification of a judge is rarely successful.
“It is considered a final step,” he said. “Questioning the integrity of a judge is a serious accusation that carries the risk of alienating the person who will decide custody and other issues. Angelina must have decided it was a risk worth taking.”
He says it is important that Jolie has repeatedly accepted the reappointment of Ouderkirk every time his task was about to end, and it was only after he criticized her in court that she cried badly.
Olson said Friday that Jolie approved the judge’s last reappointment without full knowledge of Ouderkirk’s revelation of his recent business dealings with Pitt’s legal team. Olson also requested a stay so that Ouderkirk does not issue a final detention decision until the appeals panel renders its own decision.
Jolie’s attorney brief in the case stated that even if she loses on appeal level, she will continue to fight Pitt and custody.
The information, provided by Jolie’s lawyers prior to Friday’s hearing, alleged “condemnatory legal error” on Ouderkirk’s part, including the judge’s refusal to hear testimony from the younger children about their views on custody. Jolie’s team also claimed that the actress was denied “a fair trial” because the judge wrongly ruled out hearing “evidence relevant to the children’s health, safety and welfare.”