Britney Spears’ conservatorship case resumes after last month’s explosive testimony
Britney Spears’ dramatic testimony at her open conservatorship hearing June 23 has had seismic effects on the state of her conservatorship, with resignations, allegations, requested investigations and much more popping up left and right.
The pop star appears to be gearing up to seek the end of her conservatorship, which has been in place since early 2008. Reports Monday indicated Spears was attempting to retain her own attorney, Mathew Rosengart of the massive international law firm Greenberg Traurig, after her court-appointed legal representatives sought to resign from the case.
As Judge Brenda J. Penny at L.A. County Superior Court prepares for another hearing at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday — it will be closed this time — here’s an essentially chronological roundup of what has happened, legally speaking, in the three weeks since the “Oops! ... I Did It Again” singer said her piece.
Most of the issues that follow will be considered at today’s hearing, where at least 10 petitions are on the docket. The small flood of legal filings, by the way, is funded by the singer’s money, which has been under her father’s control since 2008. A declaration filed Monday, for example, detailed payment for services rendered by the law firm working with Jamie Spears. The ask? A little less than $135,000 for four months’ work.
Jamie Spears asked the court to investigate Britney’s allegations
The singer told the court in June that she considered her conservatorship “abusive” and wanted out — admitting that all this time she didn’t know she could have her attorney petition to end it. Spears’ complaints were described in a legal document filed June 29 by her father’s attorney, Vivian Thoreen, as “serious allegations regarding forced labor, forced medical treatment and therapy, improper medical care, and limitations on personal rights, to name a few.”
“Mr. Spears requests instructions and an order from the Court to investigate the veracity of the allegations and claims made by Ms. Spears at the June 23, 2021 status hearing,” the document says.
Madonna, Iggy Azalea and now mental health and disability rights advocates are watching Britney Spears’ conservatorship battle as a civil rights issue.
In other words, he wants to know if his daughter was telling the truth when she complained that — among other things — she was forced to work, take lithium and go to a rehab facility, and prevented from riding in boyfriend Sam Asghari’s car, getting married or removing an intrauterine device so she could have another child. If she’s not telling the truth, the document says, “The conservatorship can continue its course.”
Since 2019, Jamie has been conservator of the estate only, but Britney has said more recently that she doesn’t want her father anywhere near her life or her money. “The last I spoke to you, by keeping the conservatorships going and keeping my dad in the loop, [it] made me feel like I was dead, like I didn’t matter,” she told the court June 23. “Nothing had been done. Like you thought I was lying or something.”
Jamie Spears challenged a petition to make Jodi Montgomery a permanent conservator
In March, court-appointed attorney Samuel Ingham III filed a petition asking that Jodi Montgomery be made permanent conservator of Spears’ person, a job Montgomery has held temporarily since September 2019. On June 29, Jamie challenged that in a legal document filed by Thoreen.
It was noted that Ingham, not Britney, had signed the document asking that Montgomery’s status be made permanent. Jamie Spears said he hadn’t been in charge of his daughter’s person for nearly two years, and that Montgomery had made many of the decisions the singer complained about at the June 23 hearing.
Jamie also claimed that Ingham based one of his recommendations — that Britney not be allowed informed consent on medical decisions — on a nonexistent court order stating she was incapable of making such decisions.
The document also states that Jamie has been cut off from communicating with his oldest daughter and had no intention of ever serving again as conservator of her person.
Samantha Stark, who directed “Framing Britney Spears,” says that creating the documentary without the singer’s permission “was a huge internal conflict for me.”
Bessemer Trust asked to be relieved of duty
In a document filed July 1, Bessemer Trust, which was appointed in November as co-conservator of Britney’s financial affairs and her considerable estate, asked the court to approve its resignation “due to changed circumstances.” Bessemer said it had been waiting on paperwork before starting its work for the estate and had collected no fees.
“Petitioner has heard the Conservatee and respects her wishes,” the document said, referring to Spears’ expressed desire to end her conservatorship. Bessemer asked that it be allowed to resign effective immediately. That would leave Jamie Spears as sole conservator of his daughter’s money.
Britney’s longtime manager quit
Larry Rudolph, who has managed the singer’s musical career on and off — mostly on — since the mid-1990s, announced his intentions July 5 in an email to Jamie Spears and Jodi Montgomery, according to Deadline. Rudolph said that he and Britney hadn’t communicated in more than 2 ½ years, since she told him she wanted to take an indefinite work hiatus, but that he had recently learned of her intention to retire.
“I was originally hired at Britney’s request to help manage and assist her with her career,” he reportedly said in the email. “And as her manager, I believe it is in Britney’s best interest for me to resign from her team as my professional services are no longer needed.” Rudolph has not been a participant in the conservatorship.
Britney’s court-appointed lawyers asked to resign
Ingham, who was appointed by the court as Britney’s attorney when the conservatorship went into effect in 2008, filed a petition July 6 asking to resign as her counsel. Similarly, Loeb & Loeb, a law firm brought onboard by the court in October 2020, also asked to be allowed to resign from the case. The attorneys’ salaries have been paid by the pop musician; documents recently reviewed by the New Yorker stated Ingham was getting $520,000 a year.
Britney Spears’ manager and financial co-conservator put in resignation requests, with court-appointed lawyer Sam Ingham III expected to do the same.
“Ingham’s resignation could delay Spears’ case for months,” said former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani, president of L.A. civil litigation firm West Coast Trial Lawyers, in an email. “Assuming Judge Penny grants his motion, she will have to appoint a new attorney, who would then draft and file the motion to end the conservatorship. The only real remaining question is will the court order more psychiatric evaluations before it rules.”
Both Ingham and Loeb & Loeb asked that their resignations be accepted “upon the appointment of new court-appointed counsel,” ignoring Britney’s expressed desire to select her own legal representation.
Britney’s mom asked the court to listen to her daughter
The same day the attorneys asked to walk away, “interested party” Lynne Spears petitioned the court to allow her “conservatee” daughter to select her own counsel moving forward.
“Her capacity is certainly different today than it was in 2008, and Conservatee should no longer be held to the 2008 standard, whereby she was found to ‘not have the capacity to retain counsel,’” the petition said, noting that the singer has been able to earn “literally hundreds of millions of dollars as an international celebrity” since the conservatorship was put in place.
Montgomery asked for someone to help Britney choose counsel
The temporary conservator of Britney’s person filed a petition July 7 asking the court to appoint an attorney as guardian ad litem (GAL) solely for the purpose of helping the singer choose her own legal representation.
A GAL looks out for a person who is allegedly incapable of making their own decisions. In the document, which included a full transcript of Spears’ June 23 court testimony, Montgomery stated that having a GAL “would honor Ms. Spears’ wishes while still protecting her best interests.”
Britney Spears finally spoke out about her conservatorship, but what’s next? ‘Once the system gets ahold of you, it is hard to get out,’ an attorney says.
The GAL should not be related to the singer, the document says. Montgomery also noted that whoever Britney chooses as her lawyer should be affiliated with a large law firm, as her estate is complex and extra support would be needed.
Jamie responded to that filing July 8 by saying, basically, that he was fine with having the GAL petition considered at today’s hearing.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief and petitioned for permission to communicate confidentially with Britney to offer “supported decision-making” assistance.
Montgomery asked the estate to pay for extra security after increased threats, harassment
Attorneys for Montgomery noted in a July 8 filing that since the June 23 hearing, which had an extremely large global audience, the fiduciary had seen an increased number of threatening posts online and directed at her via phone calls, text messages and emails.
“Many of the messages threaten violence and even death,” the document said. Montgomery has had live security at her house constantly since June 30, paid for conditionally by Britney’s estate.
Calling the burden of security “cost-prohibitive” for Montgomery personally, the filing asked the court to authorize payment by Britney’s estate. The matter will be considered at Wednesday’s hearing.
When Tess Barker and Barbara Gray created their podcast about Britney Spears’ Instagram account, they “didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.” Not anymore.
The same day, Jamie’s team filed paperwork opposing approval of the expense, which according to his document is going to cost more than $50,000 a month. If the court does OK it, he’s asking that it also demand a review of whether Montgomery’s request is reasonable.
“Mr. Spears, himself, has been the subject of innumerable and ongoing threats as well — not just recently, but for years,” the opposing document says. Ingham has gotten threats as well, it says, and the estate wouldn’t be able to afford this kind of security for everyone involved, were they to request it.
Britney reportedly is seeking new legal representation
TMZ and the New York Times reported Monday that Britney was considering hiring L.A.-based attorney Rosengart to represent her in a bid to end her conservatorship. The former federal prosecutor has represented a laundry list of A-list celebrities, including Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Eddie Vedder, Keanu Reeves and Kenneth Lonergan.
It’s unclear whether this is a cart-before-the-horse move or if it’s being done in coordination with Montgomery’s GAL request. On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Rosengart would appear in court Wednesday to make a due-process argument on Britney’s behalf. The singer reportedly signed a document stating she wants the Greenberg Traurig partner as her counsel, but she apparently can’t sign any contracts of consequence without permission from Jamie.
“I haven’t really had the opportunity by my own self to actually handpick my own lawyer by myself,” Spears told the court June 23, “and I would like to be able to do that.”
If she can free herself from her conservatorship, Britney Spears could become an even bigger pop star than she was in the early 2000s, experts say.
Montgomery rebuts Jamie’s investigation request
In a response filing Monday, Montgomery, through her attorneys, asked that Jamie’s June 29 request for an investigation and instructions be denied outright — or at least continued until Britney has proper counsel in place. The case has been investigated all along, the court document said, and the request itself is allegedly legally flawed.
The fiduciary also threw some shade at Britney’s dad, saying in the filing, “Mr. Spears claims this Court-ordered investigation and evidentiary hearing is necessary so he can ‘have a full and fair opportunity to respond to allegations and claims asserted’ against him by his daughter ... which is interesting in light of the near million dollars in fees recently incurred by his crisis-P.R. specialists in only a four-month period.”
The complete guide to home viewing
Get Screen Gab for weekly recommendations, analysis, interviews and irreverent discussion of the TV and streaming movies everyone’s talking about.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.