LOS ANGELES (CN) — A judge in Los Angeles has suspended Jamie Spears as conservator of the estate of Britney Spears and signaled she'll order the conservatorship ended by the end of the year.
LA County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny appointed certified public accountant John Zabel as interim trustee, while the conservatorship of Britney's person will remain in place and continue to be managed by conservator Jodi Montgomery until Dec. 31.
Penny agreed with Spears’ attorney Matthew Rosengart, who argued in a petition to remove Jamie Spears as conservator that Probate Code Section 2650 gives broad discretion to courts to remove a conservator “in the best interests of the conservatee.”
“The current situation is not tenable and appears to be a toxic environment,” Penny said during the hours-long hearing Wednesday, where supporters could be heard chanting outside.
Britney Spears did not participate in Wednesday's hearing. Jamie Spears and Britney's mother Lynne appeared via Zoom.
Penny’s decision followed back-and-forth jockeying between Rosengart, who called for the immediate suspension of Jamie Spears as conservator, and Vivian Thoreen, Jamie Spears’ attorney, who asked Penny terminate the conservatorship in its entirety “without a protracted and contentious public fight.”
“It is undisputed this would be in the best interest of the conservatee,” Thoreen said, noting terminating the conservatorship would make the issue of suspending her client as conservator, moot.
But Rosengart questioned Jamie Spears’ intent in asking the conservatorship to be terminated, suggesting he was trying to avoid being deposed under oath after a whistleblower claimed in a New York Times documentary released over the weekend that a security firm hired by the conservatorship to guard Britney had placed listening devices in her bedroom.
He said Britney Spears is aware of the allegations.
“They plotted and schemed to place a listening device in my client’s bedroom. It explains the otherwise inexplicable 180 from [seeking] an orderly transition to let’s terminate,” Rosengart said.
He added: “She sleeps in the same bedroom her father allegedly bugged. This man does not belong in her life another day.”
Rosengart also suggested Jamie Spears wanted to enter a settlement to get money, pointing out Britney Spears was “distraught” her father receives more money each month from the conservatorship than she does. According to the petition, Jamie Spears receives $16,000 a month plus $2,000 for office expenses from Britney's estate. The pop star takes in $14,000 monthly.
Thoreen said Jamie Spears disputed the allegations about the listening devices. She said her client could not avoid being deposed or his obligations as a fiduciary of the court if the conservatorship were immediately terminated, as doing so requires a final accounting and report.
She said Jamie Spears’ “record was impeccable.”
“Let’s not forget Mr. Spears is her father, when we talk about who has been there for Britney Spears,” Thoreen said, noting he “hasn’t talked to his daughter in many months” though “he would love to.”
Rosengart disputed the characterization.
“Ms. Thoreen may say his service was impeccable but not according to Britney Spears,” Rosengart said. “My client Britney Spears has been abused by this man not only for the last decade but since her childhood.”
Others involved in the conservatorship had also requested Jamie Spears be removed as conservator, Rosengart said. Britney’s psychiatrist wrote a letter to the court in October 2020 suggesting it was “critical” to Britney's mental health that her father be removed from controlling her estate.
Montgomery had also testified under oath that the medical team caring for Britney Spears “agreed” Jamie Spears should be removed as conservator, Rosengart said.
Outside the courthouse, several dozen supporters were gathered sporting pink rose pins and sparkly handmade posters to show their support for Spears.
But while many of Spears’ supporters are lifelong fans of her music, those gathered to support the #FreeBritney movement said they hope her case sparks conservatorship — called guardianships in most states — reform across the country.
Lynda Sinatra of Los Angeles stood out among the supporters carrying pink signs adorned with photos of Britney Spears.
She held up an Occupy Wall Street-esque sign with the words “Conservatorships are not hybrid business models” scrawled in black marker on a scrap piece of cardboard. The statement was in reference to prior court filing where Jamie Spears sought more compensation and called the conservatorship a “hybrid business model.”
Sinatra aid she didn’t know anyone under a conservatorship but was nonetheless concerned about the potential for abuse made public by Britney Spears’ case.
“I am here to support making sure that we have proper oversight on our courts, that we have proper oversight on guardianships — which seem to be a vacuum of abuse — and to protest against people who seem to thrive on making a living by taking advantage of others,” Sinatra said.
Other public speakers made statements outside the hearing Wednesday calling for guardianship reform, including Julie Belshe, who helped prosecutors put Las Vegas conservator April Parks behind bars after she raised red flags about an unnecessary conservatorship her parents were placed in.
A hearing to formalize termination of the conservatorship is scheduled for Nov. 12.
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