Britney Spears will speak at her conservatorship hearing. Here’s what you should know
Britney Spears is scheduled to appear virtually in downtown L.A. Wednesday at a hearing regarding her long-running conservatorship, which has been in place since 2008 and governs myriad aspects of her personal and professional life.
Spears requested the appearance in April via her court-appointed attorney, Samuel Ingham III, who didn’t say what the pop star — who hasn’t addressed the court herself since a closed hearing more than two years ago — wanted to talk about.
The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Pacific today and the question on many minds is whether the “Oops ... I Did It Again” performer, 39, will request that her conservatorship, or part of it, be removed.
The Stanley Mosk Courthouse staff appears to be doing all it can to keep things from turning into a circus. No filming, recording, broadcasting, photography or streaming will be permitted during or after the probate court hearing, whether someone is attending in person or listening to audio remotely.
Cameras, cellphones and laptops are banned from the hearing, and no filming or photography is allowed in the courthouse lobby or hallways.
Applying the rigor of “Frontline” to the story of her conservatorship, “Framing Britney Spears” is a pointed work of criticism aimed at celebrity culture.
While two seats are available to the public — one in the courtroom and one in the overflow room — they have most likely been claimed at this point via advance requests. Members of the public can participate in the court’s Remote Audio Attendance program, if they choose to sign up through the court website, and they’re subject to the same guidelines as the media and others regarding recording and broadcast.
Nevertheless, Spears fans are likely to gather — and protest — outside the courthouse on North Hill Street, as they have during prior hearings. A #FreeBritney rally will definitely take place at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Grand Park, just down the block.
Samantha Stark, who directed “Framing Britney Spears,” says that creating the documentary without the singer’s permission “was a huge internal conflict for me.”
“We recommend bringing a #FreeBritney sign, water, snacks, sunscreen, a camera, and a portable phone charger,” organizers said on the FreeBritney.army website. “No sign? No problem, we will have extra signs to share.”
Spears’ personal and financial lives have been under the control of the conservatorship since 2008, after her life unraveled amid unrelenting public scrutiny in 2007, the year her divorce from Kevin Federline was finalized.
In early 2008 she was held for mental evaluation twice before the conservatorship — initially intended to be temporary — was implemented at her father’s request. Jamie Spears’ oversight was made permanent later that year.
This has all been highly unusual. Conservatorships — also known as legal guardianships — are designed to protect people who cannot take care of themselves, such as the elderly, infirm and mentally disabled.
But Spears has worked almost nonstop since hers was implemented, leading to the rise of the #FreeBritney movement: a group of supporters who want to end the singer’s conservatorship and raise awareness of conservatorship abuse.
The #FreeBritney hashtag was getting a workout Tuesday on Twitter after the New York Times published an article, based on confidential court documents, that revealed the singer had been quietly pushing back against aspects of her conservatorship for years.
After more than a decade, why is Britney Spears still under a court-approved conservatorship, which leaves decisions involving her estate and everyday life to others?
“Britney Spears wanted her conservatorship terminated as soon as possible. Let no one suggest otherwise. #FreeBritney,” tweeted an account called @freebritneyLA. Another wrote, "#FreeBritney was NEVER a conspiracy.”
Among the NYT article’s revelations: In 2014, at a closed hearing, Ingham said Spears wanted to explore removing her father as conservator due in part to his alleged drinking. In 2016, a court investigator wrote that Spears considered the conservatorship “an oppressive and controlling tool against her.”
And in 2019 — the year Spears abruptly canceled a potentially lucrative Las Vegas residency supposedly so she could be with her ailing father — she told the court that she’d been forced to perform against her will and to enter a mental health facility.
Jamie Spears, 68, had suffered a life-threatening 2018 colon rupture that led to Jodi Montgomery of Pais Montgomery Fiduciary temporarily taking over as the conservator of Britney Spears’ person. But her father remains a co-conservator in charge of her estate.
Sam Asghari, who has dated Britney Spears since 2016, criticized her father, Jamie Spears, days after a documentary about her conservatorship premiered.
Attorney Ingham told the court last August that the singer no longer wanted her father to serve as the sole conservator of her person and wanted a bank to be named a conservator of her finances.
Last November, when Bessemer Trust was added as a co-conservator of the estate, Ingham also made the bombshell revelation that the former child star was “afraid of her father” and wouldn’t perform again while he remains in charge of her career.
In late March, the singer requested that Montgomery’s role be made permanent; then in April her attorney said she wanted to address the court herself.
While Britney Spears dismissed new documentaries about her life as reductive, fans doubt she even wrote her latest Instagram post. Not true, she says.
“Any time Britney wants to end her conservatorship, she can ask her lawyer to file a petition to terminate it; she has always had this right but in 13 years has never exercised it,” Vivian Lee Thoreen, an attorney for Jamie Spears, told People in March.
But the brief buzz that happened last week after a petition was filed requesting termination of the conservatorship of Spears’ person wound up being a false alarm: The document was filed without the assistance of an attorney by someone who appears to have no connection to the pop star at all.
Despite rampant speculation, singer Britney Spears stated in legal documents that her protracted conservatorship is voluntary.
Meanwhile, Spears addressed the question of whether she will ever perform live again in a video posted to Instagram last week — with the answer being a distinct maybe, maybe not.
“The question is, ‘Am I ready to take the stage again, am I gonna take the stage again, will I ever take the stage again?’ I have no idea,” she said, speaking at top speed. “I’m having fun right now. I’m in a transition in my life and I’m enjoying myself.”
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