ET has learned that a California appeals court ruled in Jolie's favor and disqualified private judge Judge John W. Ouderkirk in their case and all of his decisions vacated. According to court documents obtained by ET, the court agreed that Judge Ouderkirk didn't sufficiently disclose his business relationship with Pitt's attorneys, resulting in an "ethical breach."
The docs state that "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." Pitt and/or Judge Ouderkirk could still appeal this decision.
A spokesperson for Pitt tells ET in a statement, "The appeals court ruling was based on a technical procedural issue, but 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 in the children’s best interests. We will continue to do what’s necessary legally based on those detailed findings of what’s best for the children."
Jolie's previous request to remove Judge Ouderkirk was denied last November. ET reported back in May that Pitt was granted joint custody of his and Jolie's children in a tentative ruling. At the time, Judge Ouderkirk issued a "detailed" ruling, which found that Jolie's testimony lacked credibility in many important areas and that the previously existing custody order must be modified in the best interest of the children.
The court's latest decision, however, could mean that the former couple's custody battle could be up for discussion again. Now that the temporary joint custody has been vacated, it is likely that Pitt -- who has never had joint custody of their children -- will return to whatever custody agreement they had in place prior to the temporary ruling.
Jolie, who sought divorce from Pitt in 2016, initially wanted primary custody, while Pitt requested joint custody.
A source told ET in May that "all Brad ever wanted was to have joint custody of his children and he is relieved that the court ruled in his favor. This is a huge deal given the prior arrangement with the children. Brad can't wait to spend more time with them. He's incredibly happy."
In a separate court filing obtained by ET that same month, Jolie said that she would appeal the decision from Judge Ouderkirk, alleging that he denied her "a fair trial, improperly excluding her evidence relevant to the children’s health, safety, and welfare, evidence critical to making her case."
"Until Ms. Jolie asked, what was going on was only known to the judge, the ARC and the opposing counsel ... she was shocked that this was going on," Olson said. "Ms. Jolie did not know anything that happened between counsel for Pitt and the judge."
Pitt's lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, fired back, claiming Jolie knew about the potential conflict all along. "Here in a child custody case that's been going on for so long, the children are getting older," he argued, "and to allow a delaying tactic like this would be extremely unjust."
"There were no surprises," he added. "Ms. Jolie and her counsel knew about the relationship and the grounds."