Republican reps rally behind Britney Spears as they seek hearing on conservatorships
Invoking Britney Spears and the spirit of the #FreeBritney movement, two Republican congressman are calling on the House Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on conservatorships. One of them even invited the pop star to testify in person, sans representation.
In a letter sent Monday to committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) cited Spears’ ongoing battle with the conservatorship she has been under since 2008, which controls her person and her estate in the wake of a public meltdown in 2007.
They called the 39-year-old performer “the most striking example” of the need for conservatorship reform.
Britney Spears’ protracted conservatorship continues after a Thursday court hearing amid renewed interest in her case stoked by a new documentary.
At a status hearing in February, the first one since the #FreeBritney documentary “Framing Britney Spears” aired on FX and Hulu, the probate court in L.A. County decided that coconservator Bessemer Trust could control the “Toxic” singer’s investments, rather than father Jamie Spears. Spears’ estate is valued at around $58 million.
“It is no secret that my client does not want her father as coconservator,” the singer’s attorney, Samuel Ingham III, said at the hearing. “But we recognize that removal is a separate issue, and the court has declined to remove him.”
Reps. Jordan and Gaetz commented on Jamie’s role in his daughter’s life.
“The facts and circumstances giving rise to this arrangement remain in dispute but involve questionable motives and legal tactics by her father and now-conservator, Jamie Spears,” the congressmen wrote in their letter, which closed with the statement, “Given the constitutional freedoms at stake and opaqueness of these arrangements, it is incumbent upon our committee to convene a hearing to examine whether Americans are trapped unjustly in conservatorships.”
Jordan and Gaetz cited statements from the American Civil Liberties Union in their argument to call a hearing, saying that in recent years there has been “growing public concern about the use of conservatorships to effectively deprive individuals of personal freedoms at the behest of others through the manipulation of the courts.”
Financial exploitation often goes unnoticed, they stated, citing a Department of Justice study.
Applying the rigor of “Frontline” to the story of her conservatorship, “Framing Britney Spears” is a pointed work of criticism aimed at celebrity culture.
“Ms. Spears is not alone. There are countless other Americans unjustly stripped of their freedoms by others with little recourse,” Gaetz and Jordan wrote, citing the example of a New York man who was forced against his will into a 10-month conservatorship that was later tagged “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
“Jamie Spears has diligently and professionally carried out his duties as one of Britney’s conservators, and his love for his daughter and dedication to protecting her is clearly apparent to the court,” she said, adding that the singer and her legal team had been part of the decision-making process for years.
After using Britney Spears as a punch line for years, radio personality Howard Stern changes his tune and jumps on the #FreeBritney bandwagon.
Last August, Jamie spoke to the New York Post, decrying the criticism against him and calling the #FreeBritney movement “a joke.”
“I have to report every nickel and dime spent to the court every year,” he said in response to allegations that he was taking money from his daughter. “How the hell would I steal something?”
But Spears’ boyfriend, Sam Asghari, slammed Jamie via his Instagram story a month ago.
“[I]t’s important for people to understand that I have zero respect for someone trying to control our relationship and constantly throwing obstacles our way,” he wrote. “In my opinion James is a total d—. I won’t be going into details because I’ve always respected our privacy but at the same time I didn’t come to this country to not be able to express my opinion and freedom.”
“Britney was the most powerful popular pop star in the world and this conservatorship process abused her, has her where she can’t vote, can’t get married, can’t work fairly, barely,” Gaetz told a TMZ videographer Tuesday in Washington, D.C. “And if it can happen to Britney Spears, it can happen to anyone.”
Gaetz said he watched “Framing Britney Spears” and was “triggered” by what he saw as a violation of due process, among other things.
“I think that we ought to hear directly from Britney Spears. I think we can call her in to the House Judiciary Committee with no lawyers, with no conservators, and we could hear directly from her about the abuses in this process,” he said.
The congressman then directed the #FreeBritney crew to contact Nadler and demand a congressional hearing.
Dave Holmes, former host of MTV’s “Total Request Live,” reflects on the media’s mistreatment of Britney Spears and the hope he finds in a new generation’s voices.
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