Risk Update

Disqualification Developments — Private Judge, Public DQ (Angelina & Brad), Airport vs Pipeline Pique

C.A. Bars Private Judge Ouderkirk From Presiding in Case” —

  • “Retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Ouderkirk must be disqualified from presiding under court appointment in post-judgment proceedings in a case because, even though the ex-wife, Angelina Jolie, knew of a history of the attorneys for her former spouse, Brad Pitt, representing clients in cases before the private judge, Ouderkirk failed to divulge two new matters in which that lawyer is involved, the Court of Appeal held Friday.”
  • “Declaring that ‘history is different from current events,’ Presiding Justice Dennis M. Perluss of Div. Seven said Jolie’s knowledge that Pitt’s lawyer or others in his firm had cases before Ouderkirk in the past, or at the time of the judge’s pro tem appointment in 2017 or two reappointments, did not obviate the jurist’s ethical duty to disclose the two new matters, as well as the extension of his appointment in a third matter.”
  • “In light of that breach, he declared, ‘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,’ requiring issuance of a writ of mandate compelling the jurist’s recusal.”
  • “While Perluss’s opinion underscores the obligation of court-appointed temporary judges to disclose new relationships with a lawyer for one of the parties, which is apt to jar private judges into increased diligence in reporting new matters, the concurring opinion by Justice John L. Segal is bound to draw attention on the part of the Judicial Council and legislators. Segal urged an end to the system under which the court appoints temporary judges who are paid by the parties.”

Airport Attys Beat Colonial’s DQ Bid In Pipeline Easement Row” —

  • “U.S. Magistrate Judge Alistair E. Newbern rejected Colonial’s attempt to get Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP attorneys disqualified from representing MNAA in two related cases involving a pipeline that runs through airport property. Colonial argued attorneys from the firm shouldn’t be allowed to represent MNAA because Colonial received advice from two former Waller Lansden attorneys about the pipeline’s 1976 easement nearly 20 years ago.”
  • “But the court said the claims at issue in the current dispute are rooted in events that took place well after the two attorneys departed Waller Lansden and there is no reason to believe the firm is in possession of any confidential information that would unfairly advance MNAA’s position in the litigation.”
  • “‘Because a substantial relationship between the former and current matters is required for a formerly associated lawyer’s conflict to be imputed to current counsel, the court need go no further in its analysis,’ Judge Newbern said.