Since 2008, the 39-year-old pop icon has lived under a conservatorship that leaves her unable to legally make decisions about her own life, including when to work, how to spend her money, and even whether she can have children. Instead, her father Jamie has been calling the shots, leading him to reportedly adopt as a mantra the phrase, “I am Britney Spears.”
On September 29, Los Angeles Judge Brenda Penny replaced Jamie Spears as conservator of Britney’s estate and replaced him with California attorney John Zabel, as requested by Britney through her lawyer. Leaving Jamie in place as conservator, Penny said, was “not tenable.”
Jamie Spears agreed to step down from the conservatorship earlier this summer. In September, he filed a petition asking to end it entirely, citing Britney’s increasingly public opposition to the arrangement, which reached a climax in her explosive public testimony before the court this past June. At the September 29 hearing, Jamie’s lawyer argued that rather than suspend Jamie as conservator, the court should simply terminate the conservatorship immediately.
Britney’s lawyer Mathew Rosengart, however, pushed to suspend his client’s father and has said he will wait to petition for the end of the conservatorship until later this fall. There’s a basic strategic reason for that decision: If the arrangement ends now, with Jamie stepping down voluntarily, he would not be required to turn over records, including financial documents, from his 13 years as conservator.
Rosengart has repeatedly called for investigations into Jamie’s conduct, calling his mismanagement of Britney’s estate “evident and ongoing” and arguing that Jamie is only seeking to end the conservatorship due to the extreme public scrutiny as well as to avoid further investigation. “What he’s afraid of is the revelation of his corruption,” Rosengart said in court Wednesday. During Britney’s own testimony in June, she told the court she believed her father’s treatment of her constituted conservatorship abuse. “My dad, and anyone involved in this conservatorship, and my management who played a huge role in punishing me when I said no,” she said, addressing Penny directly. “Ma’am, they should be in jail.”
As the outcry over Britney’s conservatorship grows louder, more and more people involved in the conservatorship are coming forward to share their doubts about the situation publicly. Most damningly, in Controlling Britney Spears, a New York Times documentary recently released on Hulu, a former staffer for a security company Jamie Spears hired alleges that the firm secretly placed an audio listening device in Britney’s bedroom and monitored her text messages. In the Netflix documentary Britney vs. Spears, released Tuesday, an anonymous source reveals long-rumored court documents showing that Britney was originally placed under conservatorship with a diagnosis of dementia — a bold claim to make about any 27-year-old, particularly one who is also the face of a multimillion-dollar media empire.
It’s unclear whether the courts were aware of the extent to which Britney’s conservators allegedly surveilled her life. During the September 29 hearing, Rosengart called for an investigation into those claims.
Rosengart also asked the court to reconvene in 30 to 45 days to discuss “an orderly transition” out of the conservatorship. The next hearing in Britney’s case is scheduled for November 12.