Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Photograph:( Twitter )
On Wednesday, Angelina Jolie's lawyer, Robert A. Olson, said in his statement to USA TODAY that the appeals court "unanimously refused to tolerate the ethical violations of the private judge who had heard custody matters, and correctly vacated that judge’s orders." This statement was in response to Brad Pitt's Tuesday court filing over private judge's dismissal.
Hollywood star Brad Pitt is reportedly seeking a review of the California appellate court's ruling last month to drop the private judge he and his ex-wife Angelina Jolie had picked more than four years ago to oversee their divorce and the subsequent custody battle.
On Tuesday, in a 87-page document filed at the California Supreme Court that has been obtained by USA TODAY, Pitt's lawyers have argued that the 2nd District Court of Appeal had wrongly dismissed Judge John Ouderkirk based on "a minor and inadvertent administrative error" that involved disclosure of previous business links to Pitt's lawyers.
That same failure of disclosure in a timely fashion gave room for Jolie to challenge the judge's neutrality after he had tentatively granted joint custody of their minor children to both Jolie and Pitt.
One of Pitt's lawyers, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., told USA TODAY that the appeals court's ruling is not only unfair to Pitt but "bad for children and bad for California’s overburdened judicial system."
"The lower court’s ruling will reward parties who are losing child custody cases, and condone their gamesmanship, by allowing them to wait and see about the likely direction of the case before seeking the disqualification of the judge," he has reportedly said.
Pitt's legal team also argued that Angelina Jolie's 'lie-in-wait' strategy gave her the opportunity to push for the judge's disqualification after he had already issued the ruling – of joint custody – that Jolie has now objected to.
The ruling dismissing the judge has "generated widespread confusion, uncertainty, and instability for judges, litigants, and the California judicial system as a whole," Boutrous argued in the court document.
Pitt's lawyer went on to add that the ruling will cause "irreparable harm" to the couple's children and other families embroiled in similar cases by prolonging the resolution of custody disputes in what has been termed as "an already-overburdened court system".
"Allowing this kind of crafty litigation strategy will deprive parents of irreplaceable time with their children as judges are disqualified for minor reasons in the midst of their cases," Boutrous said.
On Wednesday, Angelina Jolie's lawyer, Robert A. Olson, said in his statement to USA TODAY that the appeals court "unanimously refused to tolerate the ethical violations of the private judge who had heard custody matters, and correctly vacated that judge’s orders."
Olson's statement suggested that Pitt's legal team's petition to the California Supreme Court "displays how they are clinging to this private judge who exhibited bias and refused statutorily required evidence," and called it "disturbing" that Pitt's counsel would seek to reinstate Ouderkirk "having previously failed to disclose their new and ongoing financial relationships with him."
Olson also added that Jolie "hopes Mr. Pitt will instead join with her in focusing on the children’s needs, voices, and healing."
Jolie and Pitt's long-drawn divorce is now up for further delay when the appellate court handed Jolie an upper hand by disqualifying Ouderkirk.
“Judge Ouderkirk’s ethical breach, considered together with the information disclosed concerning his recent professional relationships with Pitt’s counsel, might cause an objective person, aware of all the facts, reasonably to entertain a doubt as to the judge’s ability to be impartial. Disqualification is required,” the court ruled.
The latest ruling could mean the custody battle over the couple's five minor children, which was nearing its completion, could start over from scratch with a new judge.
However, Brad Pitt's Tuesday petition to the California Supreme Court intends at derailing that possibility.