Britney Spears conservatorship case heads back to court amid turmoil

Britney Spears’s fight to end the conservatorship that has long controlled her life is heading back to court on Wednesday for a high-stakes hearing that could transform her case.

In impassioned testimony last month, the singer said the conservatorship had been “abusive” and for the first time publicly called for the termination of the legal arrangement that has given her father and others authority over her personal life and career for 13 years.

Her speech caused an upheaval in her case, which for years has been largely shrouded in secrecy. Her controversial court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D Ingham, has asked to resign; the wealth management firm, Bessemer Trust, has withdrawn from overseeing her estate; her longtime manager stepped down; her father, Jamie Spears, has asked the court to investigate her allegations; and lawyers involved in the case have feuded in court filings.

The hearing is scheduled for 1.30pm local time in Los Angeles superior court. It’s unclear if Spears will be appearing again.

A major question at stake in Wednesday’s hearing is whether Spears will be able to select and hire her own lawyer. Ingham, her court lawyer, has faced intense scrutiny after Spears said in court that she did not know she could petition to terminate the conservatorship. Records have shown that Spears for years has strongly objected to the conservatorship, but Ingham, who has been paid millions from Spears’s estate, has never petitioned to end it.

Ingham was assigned to her when she was first placed in a conservatorship in 2008 and deemed incapable of hiring her own lawyer. But recent investigations have raised questions about the fraught process that led to an indefinite conservatorship, and fans have long advocated for the courts to restore her independence.

The New York Times reported this week that Spears has been in contact with Mathew Rosengart, a Hollywood lawyer and former federal prosecutor who is expected to attend the hearing this week and make the case that she should be able to hire him.

, Britney Spears conservatorship case heads back to court amid turmoil, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
, Britney Spears conservatorship case heads back to court amid turmoil, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
Britney Spears publicly called for the termination of her conservatorship in testimony last month. Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters

Conservatorships are typically used for elderly or infirm people who are deemed incapable of making decisions, but disability rights advocates say the process is ripe for abuse. Spears has questioned the merits of the arrangement, noting that she has continued to have a successful career while being denied basic autonomy. She also said the arrangement has forced her to work and take medications against her will, blocked her from getting married or having another child and controlled her personal relationships.

It can be a long and difficult process to end conservatorships, but experts say it would be a gamechanger if Spears retained her own lawyer who could aggressively fight to terminate the arrangement. Jamie Spears and Jodi Montgomery, the licensed conservator who controls her healthcare, have cast blame on each other in court filings.

The flurry of resignations and in-fighting since her June testimony has given some hope to advocates with the #FreeBritney movement who have been rallying for termination for years.

“It signals that the whole thing is finally crumbling. To me, it’s the true beginning of the end,” said Megan Radford, a longtime #FreeBritney activist, adding that it was troubling that despite her claims of mistreatment and pleas for help, she remained under control of the same people. “They are all fighting back and forth, but no one is actually doing what Britney asked to be done.”

Kevin Wu, another advocate, said he was optimistic that “her freedom is coming soon”, adding: “This is bigger than Britney. There are many people who are under abusive guardianships. The attention on her case will hopefully bring justice for many of these people.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and other disability rights groups filed an amicus brief this week in support of her right to hire her own counsel.

Attorneys for her father and Montgomery, the licensed conservator, have repeatedly defended their roles, saying their priority has been Spears’s wellbeing.

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