A Los Angeles Superior Court judge Friday formally ended the conservatorship that has controlled Britney Spears’ life for nearly 14 years.
The decision by Judge Brenda Penny — who found that the conservatorship was “no longer required” — marks a major victory for the pop star, who has lashed out at those involved in the oversight of her multimillion- dollar fortune and personal life — most notably her father, who until recently served as conservator of her estate.
“The time has come to end the conservatorship,” Spears’ attorney, Mathew Rosengart, told the judge.
The 39-year-old Spears, reacting to Friday’s decision, posted on social media a video of her fans celebrating outside the downtown Los Angeles courthouse and wrote, “Good God I love my fans so much it’s crazy!! I think I’m gonna cry the rest of the day!!!! Best day ever … praise the Lord … can I get an Amen???? FreedBritney.”
Accountant John Zabel will remain in place as a temporary conservator of Spears’ estate, primarily to wrap up financial issues, including creating a safety net to make sure some of the singer’s assets are placed in a trust, said Rosengart.
Zabel was put in the position in September when Penny suspended Spears’ father, Jamie, from the role that he held for the entirety of the conservatorship.
Penny’s ruling brought roars from dozens of people who gathered outside the downtown Los Angeles courthouse as part of the FreeBritney movement that evolved in an effort to end the conservatorship.
Spears herself, along with her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, posted photos of themselves Friday on Instagram sporting FreeBritney T-shirts.
The motion to end the conservatorship was surprisingly filed in September by Jamie Spears, who was removed from the conservator role following an array of accusations by the singer’s lawyer, including allegations that the singer’s father arranged to have listening devices secretly installed in Britney Spears’ bedroom.
Jamie Spears’ new attorney, Alex Weingarten, made his first appearance in court in the case Friday, saying little other than to confirm that his client still favored ending the conservatorship. Weingarten’s past clients have included Robin Thicke and the late Tom Petty’s daughters, Adria Petty and Annakim Violette.
Rosengart praised his client after the hearing, saying her efforts had not only helped herself, but also those in conservatorship fights from California to New York. Asked what is next for Spears, Rosengart said that for the first time in more than a decade, that decision is up to her.
Rosengart said Jamie Spears has ignored deposition subpoenas to answer questions by him and other members of his law firm.
“If Britney wants, if Britney instructs, we will pursue James Spears’ deposition,” Rosengart said. “We will pursue the discovery that we served on him in the form of interrogatories, document requests and other information we’re seeking both in regard to financial information, alleged financial misconduct and the electronic surveillance issue. … It’s interesting that he has refused to cooperate because his lawyer, in his lawyer’s filing, claimed that Mr. Spears would profusely cooperate.”
Rosengart said that in addition to the decisions made by Jamie Spears during the course of the conservatorship, an investigation also needs to be done to those made by pop star’s former managers from Tri-Star Sports & Entertainment Group to see whether they also allegedly mismanaged the singer’s assets.
In court papers filed earlier this month, Rosengart formally backed the proposal to end the conservatorship, while also suggesting the entertainer’s father supported the move solely to avoid answering questions about his work as conservator of his daughter’s estate.
Rosengart wrote that all interested parties consent to ending the conservatorship, including Jamie Spears. In the documents, Rosengart quotes an Oct. 22 email from Jamie Spears’ attorney saying the conservatorship “can be terminated immediately.”
Rosengart added it is “of no moment, presently, whether Mr. Spears’ reversal was motivated by a desire to bolster his reputation or to avoid his deposition or responding to the outstanding discovery served on him in August.”
Attached to the document were copies of earlier filings outlining deposition questions for Jamie Spears and requests for information and other documents.
Among the demands are for Jamie Spears to produce all documents and communications regarding “any recording or listening device in the home or bedroom of Britney Jean Spears,” including all information “relating to the decision to place any such recording or listening device and the records of any such recordings.”
Rosengart also demanded any documents regarding “the electronic surveillance, monitoring, cloning or recording of the activity of Britney Jean Spears’ personal telephone, including but not limited to the surveillance, monitoring, cloning, icloud mirroring or recording of calls, e-mails, text messages, internet browser use or history and social media use or direct messages on social media.”
Jamie Spears had been overseeing his daughter’s estate since the conservatorship began 13 years ago, and the singer repeatedly demanded his removal from the role. During an emotional court appearance earlier this year, the singer accused her father and others involved in the conservatorship of abusive and restrictive behavior that included limiting her movements, forcing her into unwanted therapy sessions and giving her unneeded medications.
Jamie Spears’ attorney has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing by the singer’s father, including allegations that listening devices were planted in the singer’s home.
The Britney Spears case has led to widespread questions about the conservatorship system and how it is applied — particularly in the case of a wildly popular singer who continued to perform and generate millions of dollars for her estate, even while under court oversight.
The end of the conservatorship does not mean the termination of hearings in the case. Another is scheduled for Jan. 19.