Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge ends Britney Spears’ 13-year conservatorship

Advocacy prompted by the movement to terminate Britney Spears’ conservatorship has already changed California laws regarding rights for conservatees.

LOS ANGELES (CN) — An attorney for Britney Spears said Friday afternoon what’s next for the pop star is, for the first time in more than a decade, up to her.

That’s because the 13-year conservatorship she was subjected to following a public mental breakdown in 2008 was officially terminated Friday following mounting public pressure from fans and supporters of the #FreeBritney movement and Britney Spears’ own jarring court testimony this past summer where she compared her father and former conservator, Jamie Spears, to a sex trafficker.

“I’m so proud of her, of her voice and power,” Britney Spears' attorney Matthew Rosengart told a gaggle of reporters following the court hearing.

“Not only is this momentous for Britney, but she helped shine a light on not only this conservatorship, which was corrupted by her father James P. Spears, but she helped shine a light on conservatorships and guardianships from coast to coast, from California to New York,” Rosengart added.

Rosengart said whether his firm continues to investigate claims Jamie Spears took improper amounts from the estate “is up to my client Britney.”

LA County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny told a packed courtroom she’d found the conservatorship of Britney Spears’ multimillion dollar estate and person was “no longer required,” immediately terminating the legal arrangement called a guardianship in most states.

Penny found Britney Spears was not required to submit a capacity declaration — which both she and Jamie Spears opposed — to terminate the conservatorship.

The termination order is subject to a special condition allowing temporary conservator of the estate, certified public accountant John Zabel, to remain in place to transfer assets to a new trust set up in Britney Spears’ name.

Rosengart told Penny Zabel would “serve as a concierge service for Ms. Spears for her financial wellbeing and safety.”

“Britney has been put in a position, through the collaboration of my law firm, to succeed," Rosengart said.

"We have a safety net in place, both on the personal side and on the financial side. Britney, as of today, is a free woman, she is an independent woman, and the rest — with her support system — will be up to Britney,” Rosengart said.  

Documents related to the transfer of Spears’ assets and management of her estate had been filed this week under seal, Rosengart said.

It’s exactly the type of support system disability rights advocates say Britney Spears and others subject to invasive conservatorship and guardianships should be offered rather than having all their rights to make personal decisions taken away by probate courts across the country.

Judy Mark, president of Disability Voices United and the parent of a 24-year-old with Autism, was posted at a row of tables set up by several disability rights organizations outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown LA.

She said in an interview with Courthouse News she realized the #FreeBritney movement was a disability rights movement after she heard the pop star’s testimony over the summer where Britney Spears said she felt like she was in prison.

“It’s exactly the way a lot of people who are conserved feel: prisoners have more rights than a person under conservatorship,” Mark said.

She added: “When you have a complete conservatorship the person can’t even make decisions about who they spend time with and a prisoner can certainly do that. It is such an extreme — they can control all your personal relationships.”

Mark said the organizers behind #FreeBritney want to make long-term impacts to ensure other Californians aren’t subject to the same conservatorship arrangement which controlled every aspect of Britney Spears' life from her finances to her birth control.

As for Disability Voices United and other disability rights groups, they are joining with #FreeBritney and other organizations to sponsor legislation and change the way conservatorships are handled in California.

Mark said the groups had already reached out to the Judicial Council.

“The probate court system must be more transparent. People are getting conserved in very quick processes that are not actually exploring whether there are less restrictive alternatives even though that’s mandated by state probate code,” Mark said, prompting her group to start a diversion program to prevent people from being conserved.

Disability Voices United is also seeking data, as California is unable to provide advocates information on how many people are conserved in the state or how many conservatorship petitions are denied.

#FreeBritney advocates nearby sporting pink roses and iconic costumes worn by the pop star in music videos throughout her career gathered in anticipation the conservatorship would be ended.

Sitting on top of a table was a locked clear acrylic box containing items representing the “freedoms” advocates said Britney Spears had taken away during the conservatorship including medication, family planning, international travel and driving.

Thomas, a marketing volunteer with Free Britney Army who declined to give his last name, noted Thursday night a video was posted on Instagram showing Britney Spears wearing a #FreeBritney t-shirt with the phrase “It’s a human rights movement” emblazoned across it.

“That’s really what this is: it’s about human rights and civil rights. We’re really focused on changing the laws here in California starting with Britney Spears and then moving elsewhere to help those in guardianships,” Thomas said.

He said Assembly Bill 1194, which gives California conservatees the right to choose their own attorney, and was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in September and goes into effect next year, was inspired by Britney Spears' case.

“As we’ve seen, as soon as Britney Spears was able to choose her own attorney after 13 1/2 years, things accelerated quickly. She has spoken in court in June and she got that right she should have always had to get her own attorney,” Thomas said.

The law also calls for a study of the state’s conservatorship system to be delivered to the California legislature by 2024.  

A court hearing for petition to substitute judgment related to Zabel’s role in transferring the assets to the estate was scheduled for Dec. 8.

Follow @@BiancaDBruno
Categories / Civil Rights, Entertainment, National

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.