A couple of days ago, news broke that as Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt continue to try and wrap their divorce, Jolie was attempting to have the judge removed from the case, citing a repeat and recent relationship between the judge on the case and the Respondent’s counsel as the reason for why her legal team would like to see a change. Financial gain but also some other high-profile cases were cited, which is how Modern Family’s Steve Levitan and his divorce comes in.
In this case Judge John W. Ouderkirk had worked on several previous cases with Anne C. Kiley and Lance Spiegel, both attorneys for Brad Pitt on the case. This was allegedly not disclosed as both Angelina Jolie and Pitt began working with a judge to wrap on the divorce. Reportedly, it was discovered by one of Jolie’s attorneys, though it had been disclosed to Jolie’s legal team that Ouderkirk reportedly had been on a few cases with Kiley way back in 2012 or 2013.
Yet, according to the new filing from Angelina Jolie’s team (via Page Six), the judge had also been a part of far more recent cases, including the 2018 high profile divorce of Modern Family's Steve Levitan and his wife Krista. While Levitan worked a as a co-creator and producer on the ABC comedy, his divorce dragged on for quite a while given Levitan is a successful producer in Hollywood and there was a lot of money on the table and differences over who got the money had to be hashed out. The divorce went on for two years and was seemingly settled, but according to what Angelina Jolie's lawyer found, their divorce is still ongoing in 2020 with Judge John W. Ouderkirk and the lawyers Pitt hired being involved.
Similarly, at this point it’s still hard to even imagine that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt aren’t divorced yet. Their initial split feels like it was a million years ago (which has no doubt been exacerbated by 2020 dragging on due to the pandemic). Technically, legally Jolie and Pitt do have a bifurcated divorce, meaning they are legally divorced but have not figured out the major headaches yet, including things like custody or child support.
Obviously, this little wrinkle is slowing down the process again, though an unnamed source also told Page Six that Angelina is not interested in “trying to delay” this process. In her filing, her attorney said, "all my client is asking for is a fair trial based on facts." The court papers from Jolie's team even argue the lack of transparency over mentioning the Levitan divorce and other cases was a "little secret" between the judge and lawyers.
No one thought to let [Jolie] know. Instead, it was a little secret between Judge Ouderkirk and [Pitt’s] counsel.... as is often true, the cover-up (or perceived cover-up) drives home the concern that something untoward is happening.
There’s no word yet whether Judge John W. Ouderkirk will ultimately be disqualified and shifted off of the case, nor is there any news on what the ultimate outcome between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie when it comes to the custody of their six kids, but as always, we’ll keep you posted.