Judge expected to terminate Britney Spears conservatorship this week | Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 2, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 2, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge expected to terminate Britney Spears conservatorship this week

Pop star Britney Spears has been subject to a conservatorship – called guardianships in most states – since an emergency court order was filed following a public breakdown in 2008.

(CN) — Britney Spears will likely be freed this week of a 13-year conservatorship overseen by her father, Jamie Spears, and court-appointed legal team which controlled and made decisions on behalf of the pop star and her multimillion-dollar estate.

LA County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny will decide Friday afternoon whether to formally terminate the conservatorship of Britney Spears’ estate and person. The motion to terminate the conservatorship is uncontested by all those involved in the arrangement.

The hearing follows Penny’s pivotal decision in September to remove Jamie Spears as conservator of his daughter’s estate following the pop star’s bombshell testimony this summer where she compared her father to a sex trafficker and publicly revealed she was traumatized by the arrangement intended to protect herself and her estate from undue influence.

At the September hearing, Jamie Spears’ attorney Vivian Thoreen unsuccessfully argued Penny should immediately terminate the conservatorship.

The abrupt 180 prompted Britney Spears’ attorney Matthew Rosengart to suggest her father was trying to avoid being deposed following claims in a New York Times documentary a security firm hired by the conservatorship had bugged Britney Spears’ bedroom with a listening device.

A few weeks later, Jamie Spears fired Thoreen and hired Willkie Farr & Gallagher attorney Alex Weingarten to replace her.

Britney Spears and Rosengart are indeed pressing forward in their investigation of those hired by the conservatorship: Attached to her Oct. 28 petition to terminate the conservatorship was a request for formal discovery and Jamie Spears’ sworn deposition.

Rosengart had also submitted extensive discovery requests seeking information from the estate’s former business manager, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, and security firm Black Box Security regarding the company’s surveillance of Britney Spears’ phone and alleged placement of recording devices in her bedroom.

In the interim, certified public accountant John Zabel has served as temporary trustee, while the conservatorship of Britney Spears’ person continues to be managed by conservator Jodi Montgomery.

The public fight over the pop star’s conservatorship — which was put in place in early 2008 following Britney Spears' public breakdown and concerns about possible substance abuse — has shone a spotlight on the rampant abuses disability rights advocates have raised alarms about when individuals’ rights are taken away through the legal arrangement.

Zoe Brennan-Krohn, a staff attorney with the Disability Rights Program at the American Civil Liberties Union who works on guardianship and conservatorship cases, said in a phone interview with Courthouse News it is difficult to predict what the process of ending Britney Spears' conservatorship will look like since it’s rare for conservatees to get out of the arrangements.

“If the judge decides to terminate it, particularly with the financial aspect of it, there would have to be some process of untangling all of that, of returning Britney's name to bank accounts to investments and all sorts of things,” Brennan-Krohn said.

She added: “It's not something that could be undone with the flip of a switch, but I would hope that if the judge orders the termination of the conservatorship, that process would all be started very quickly.”

Brennan-Krohn said the transition from having no rights as a conservatee to restored rights when a conservatorship is terminated “is a really big change” which will require a support system — this time of folks Britney Spears can choose.

As for questions surrounding whether Britney Spears will have to undergo psychological evaluation to support termination of the conservatorship, Brennan-Krohn said it was unlikely since all those involved in the conservatorship support ending it.

Both Jamie Spears and Britney Spears have opposed any type of psychological evaluation being required to terminate the conservatorship in their petitions with the court — with Rosengart writing in the petition on behalf of Spears “with the consent of all the parties the time has come” to end the arrangement.

“In a case like this where everyone agrees — everyone has filed their own petition saying this conservatorship should be terminated — the court, I hope, would give that a lot of deference and take that seriously,” Brennan-Krohn said.

The conservatorship termination hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday.

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.