Three weeks ago, Britney Spears publicly expressed for the first time that she wants her “abusive” conservatorship to end, and now she’s given another emotional testimony as the court is considering a series of petitions that could substantially change the status quo.
A long list of items were on the docket for the Wednesday afternoon hearing before L.A. County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny — and the first to be decided is that Spears can hire Hollywood Power Lawyer Mathew Rosengart of Greenberg Traurig in her pursuit of ending the arrangement.
Spears broke down in tears while addressing the court via telephone, and demanded that her father be charged with conservatorship abuse. “I want to get my dad removed, ma’am,” Spears said to Penny. “I’m angry and I will go there.” Spears initially asked Penny to clear the courtroom before she spoke, but the judge indicated it was an open proceeding and she’d need to have specifics about her intended testimony before doing that.
The artist also requested that Rosengart be appointed as her personal attorney, and Penny moved the matter up the agenda to address it early on. The judge asked about his firm’s trust and estate practice, which Rosengart described as “substantial.” His team will include Eric Rowen, Scott Bertzyk and Lisa McCurdy, whom he introduced to the court.
“Ms. Spears does absolutely have a right to select her own attorney,” Rosengart argued, adding that her powerful and compelling comments in the previous hearing showed she was more than capable of making the decision. Penny ultimately approved the appointment. Longtime court-appointed attorney Samuel D. Ingham III and co-counsel from Loeb & Loeb were also formally removed as Spears’ attorneys.
Ingham interrupted proceedings multiple times, saying Spears was texting him indicating that she wanted to speak. (She apparently didn’t have Rosengart’s number saved in her phone.) While much of what she said mirrored statements she delivered on June 23, Spears spoke with urgency and demanded that the court act on her wishes. “I want to press charges against my father today,” she told Judge Penny. “I want an investigation into my dad.” She spoke quickly — Penny asked Spears multiple times to slow down so that the court reporter could catch up on her transcription — and apologized for swearing when she called the conservatorship “fucking cruelty.”
In one of the hearing’s more powerful moments, newly installed Rosengart said, “This is not working. We know that. The goal is to end the conservatorship. We have questions if this was even the proper forum back in 2008.”
Rosengart continued to argue that Jamie Spears, after hearing his daughter’s words in both hearings, should voluntarily leave his role as conservator of her estate.
“We will be filing as quickly as possible to get Mr. Spears removed from the conservatorship,” Rosengart said. “If he loves his daughter, it is time to step aside and move on so she can have her life back.”
Jamie’s attorney Vivian Thoreen bluntly declined the request and said, “There is no basis for him stepping down … There is a path forward without all the hysteria.”
She added that one of the biggest issues is Britney’s “belief that her father is responsible … for a litany of horrible things that have happened to her, but that could not be further from the truth.”
Thoreen also noted that no other party has been afforded the opportunity to address the court in the way Britney has, and she questioned whether Britney misunderstood certain situations or decisions that were made. “These are serious claims that need to be vetted,” Thoreen said, pointing to how Spears blamed her father for some of the more strict aspects of the conservatorship — that she was not able to remove her IUD in order to have a child or that she’s been unable to see friends — even though he does not have control over those decisions.
“I’m not sure that Ms. Spears understands that she can make those decisions,” Thoreen said. “We really need to understand and piece together what the truth is.”
After she spoke, attorney Lauriann Wright, acting on behalf of Spears’ conservator of the person Jodi Montgomery said, “There is no question that we are dealing with someone with mental illness.” Any investigation needs to protect Spears’ privacy and medical records, she argued, suggesting it’s in Spears’ best interest if future hearings are sealed so they can manage “what comes out in public” about her life and condition.
Wright emphasized the importance of a long-term care plan done in tandem with a medical team, suggesting “teamwork” on that front could be accomplished through mediation.
Instead of taking a planned recess and the coming back to address the remaining issues that had been on the docket — such as whether there should be an investigation into claims Spears raised during the June 23 hearing, if Montgomery should be made the permanent conservator of Spears’ person, and what security costs are appropriate for those attached to the conservatorship who are receiving death threats — a follow-up hearing was scheduled for Sept. 29.
Penny emphasized, “Everyone should be working collaboratively. It’s not about anybody else but [Britney].”
The dozens of fans outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse would agree with that. The #FreeBritney supporters were out in full force on Wednesday, toting signs and dressed in pastels with many wearing T-shirts, hats, pins and buttons emblazoned with the icon’s face and song lyrics. Following her statements to the court in June, Spears received support from fellow pop stars like Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. But on Wednesday, an unlikely supporter stepped in front of cameras in Downtown Los Angeles to call Jamie Spears “a dick.”
Controversial GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz joined throngs of fans and grabbed mic for an impromptu speech on behalf of Spears. “Free Britney,” he said before adding, “Britney’s been abused by the media, she’s been abused by her grifter father and she has been abused by the American justice system.”
Just hours after court, Spears celebrated her new legal representation by taking to social media to post a video of herself riding a horse and doing cartwheels above a message of gratitude to her millions of fans. “Coming along, folks … coming along !!!!! New with real representation today … I feel GRATITUDE and BLESSED !!!! Thank you to my fans who are supporting me … You have no idea what it means to me be supported by such awesome fans !!!! God bless you all !!!!!”
Coming along, folks … coming along 🖕🏻!!!!! New with real representation today … I feel GRATITUDE and BLESSED !!!! Thank you to my fans who are supporting me … You have no idea what it means to me be supported by such awesome fans !!!! God bless you all !!!!! pic.twitter.com/27yexZ5O8J
— Britney Spears (@britneyspears) July 15, 2021