Britney Spears’ father suspended as conservator. Here’s what’s next

People with signs and shirts supporting Britney Spears
“I do believe that the suspension of James Spears as conservator … is in the best interest of the conservatee,” Judge Brenda J. Penny said.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Thursday, September 30. I’m Justin Ray.

Yesterday you probably heard the big, breaking Britney bulletin.

A Los Angeles judge on Wednesday ordered the suspension of Jamie Spears, father of Britney Spears, as conservator of the international pop star’s estate. The decision was a big moment in her battle to shed her father’s 13-year role managing her affairs. The case has gripped fans and highlighted the problems with guardianships.

On Wednesday afternoon in downtown L.A., Judge Brenda J. Penny spoke about her decision: “I do believe that the suspension of James Spears as conservator … is in the best interest of the conservatee.”

In a blistering speech in late June,Britney Spears finally confirmed what fans had been suspecting: that the pop star is unhappy with the arrangement. She alleged that her conservators forced her to work nonstop and take medication that left her incapacitated.

“I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m OK and I’m happy,” Spears said while addressing the court openly for the first time. “I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. ... But now I’m telling you the truth, OK? I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry, it’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day.”


What happens next? Here are three things we know:

  • What happens to the conservatorship: John Zabel, a certified public accountant handpicked by Spears’ team, will temporarily succeed Jamie Spears as a fiduciary, interim conservator. Penny ordered Jamie Spears to turn over all assets to Zabel as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Britney Spears’ attorney, Mathew Rosengart, asked the judge to set a hearing in 30 to 45 days to end the conservatorship altogether.
  • Allegations against Jamie Spears: Rosengart reportedly called for an investigation into his conduct as conservator. Britney Spears’ attorney discussed “unfathomable” lines allegedly crossed by the singer’s father, referring to recent New York Times reporting that the security team hired by Jamie Spears secretly placed an audio recording device in his daughter’s bedroom and captured hundreds of hours of private interactions.
  • Conservatorship reform? The singer’s case has galvanized some politicians to consider changing guardianship laws. We explained in March that proposals in the California Legislature aim to strengthen the requirements of conservatorships, requiring more oversight and training of those in charge of another person’s care and finances, and implementing additional conditions to safeguard conservatees such as Britney Spears. The state’s lawmakers are not alone in moving to make changes to these legal arrangements.

The major moment in Spears’ legal drama came amid many documentaries focused on the pop star’s conservatorship. Last week brought FX/Hulu’s “Controlling Britney Spears,” which was a follow-up to February’s Emmy-nominated “Framing Britney Spears.” Netflix debuted “Britney vs Spears” on Tuesday. CNN also launched “Toxic: Britney Spears’ Battle for Freedom,” which appeared to have confused the singer.

We have a larger rundown on all the fireworks that took place in court here.


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Subscriber exclusive: How Florida fell so far behind California in battling the coronavirus. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, California and Florida have stood as polar opposites in how government has responded to the coronavirus. Our Gov. Gavin Newsom last year backed sweeping stay-at-home orders, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis led efforts to ban health rules. But with the Delta variant raging this summer, data show Florida has fallen significantly behind California in many key metrics. A Los Angeles Times analysis found that of the nation’s 50 states, Florida had the worst COVID-19 death rate and coronavirus case rate for the summer. Los Angeles Times

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Registered nurse Zoe Zinis puts on fresh protective layers before entering the room of an infected patient in July in Jacksonville, Fla.
(Bob Self / Florida Times-Union)


Klete Keller, the five-time Olympic swimming medalist from USC, agreed to a plea bargain Wednesday after facing seven federal charges for participating in January’s U.S. Capitol riot. During a hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington, Keller pleaded guilty to a felony count of obstruction of an official proceeding and will cooperate with prosecutors. Keller, 39, stood out amid the chaos in the Capitol rotunda thanks to his 6-foot-6 height, beard and distinctive U.S. Olympic team jacket with “USA” written in large letters on the back. In a statement of offense signed earlier this month, Keller admitted to “trying to obstruct, influence, and impede” Congress certifying the electoral college votes and, afterward, discarding the Team USA jacket. Los Angeles Times


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California COVID-19 worker protection program expiring. Today, the state’s aggressive supplemental sick leave program will end. It allowed workers to take up to two weeks of coronavirus-related paid leave to care for themselves or family members or to recover from the effects of vaccination. It gave workers the leeway to take time off without worrying they’d lose their jobs, making workplaces safer. “It’s obvious that COVID is not going away — but the protections for workers are,” said Steve Smith, communications director for the California Labor Federation. Capital and Main


Fire arson suspect said she was boiling creek water to remove bear urine. A Palo Alto woman facing felony charges in connection with a wildfire burning in Shasta County told authorities, among other things, that she was trying to boil bear urine out of creek water the day the fire started, according to a criminal complaint. Alexandra Souverneva, 30, is accused of “willfully, unlawfully, and maliciously” setting fire to forest land in the Mountain Gate area near Redding on Sept. 22, igniting the Fawn fire, which has destroyed 185 structures and forced the evacuation of thousands of residents. She has pleaded not guilty. Los Angeles Times

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A black bear wanders along Canyon Road.
(Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

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Dangerous Air: As California burns, America breathes toxic smoke. This KCRW, KQED and NPR collaboration has calculated the impact of climate change-fueled wildfire smoke in every ZIP Code in America. You can look up your smoke exposure in this interactive map. The analysis, based on more than 10 years of data, reveals a startling increase in the number of days residents are breathing smoke from California and the Pacific Northwest, to Denver and Salt Lake City in the Rocky Mountains, to rural Kentucky and West Virginia in Appalachia. KCRW

Santa Ana wind season is back. The winds are born in the Great Basin, between the Sierra and the Rockies. From there, they come down upon us, hurtling out of narrow mountain passes that squeeze them into a blowtorch mounted on a rocket. Where do Santa Ana winds come from and how did they get their name? And how does the O.C. city feel about them? Patt Morrison has all the answers. Los Angeles Times


How community members are rallying to save Oakland’s only Black-owned hemp shop. Kim McAfee opened “All Things Hemp” in 2019. From dresses to pasta, her store has a variety of hemp products for sale. The pandemic harmed her business, but McAfee is hosting a “reopening” party at her shop Saturday to hopefully drum up sales. The bash will feature food and an unveiling of the shop’s new mural painted by Serge Gay Jr. Oaklandside

Jaime Jarrín, the longest-tenured broadcaster in Major League Baseball, announced he will retire after the 2022 season, his 64th with the Dodgers. For decades, his voice connected the team to people who weren’t attending those games, to people who weren’t in the country yet, to people who have never even lived in the United States. He was the link to Spanish-speaking immigrants, predominantly Mexican, and their children and their children’s children. Los Angeles Times

California outlawed the all-white-male boardroom. That move is reshaping corporate America. The state’s requirements that publicly traded corporations diversify their boardrooms has been ridiculed as quixotic by conservative columnists and some corporate chieftains. The courts are still threatening to erase the quotas, the first of which were signed into law in 2018. But California is having the last laugh. Even as the mandates on women and people of color have become a flashpoint in the culture wars, companies across the country are embracing California’s boardroom diversity directives. Los Angeles Times

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Today’s California memory is from Katharine DeBurgh:

As a Southern California teenager in the 1990s, my best summer nights were spent with loved ones at the Hollywood Bowl. Fireworks, spectaculars and John Williams were always amazing, but my favorite attractions were the orchestra concerts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On weeknights, tickets for the back row were only $1. It was possible to creep closer if it wasn’t crowded – or better still, we would lie on our backs on the wooden benches and gaze at the stars as the powerful music of Brahms or Beethoven rolled through the audience to crash down right on us in the last row.

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