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Britney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, has been immediately suspended from his role as Britney's financial conservator by Judge Brenda Penny. It's a gigantic step forward towards ending the restrictive conservatorship that the singer has been tied into for thirteen years.
A new, temporary financial conservator, John Zabel, has taken over the reigns until likely 12 November, which is when Britney's legal team are expected to petition the court to end the conservatorship in its entirety - meaning Britney could finally be free, once and for all.
In court, Britney's recently newly-appointed lawyer, Matthew Rosengart, argued that the singer's father had routinely abused the power that accompanied his position and made reference to the New York Times documentary, Controlling Britney, which aired recently and claimed that hidden recording devices and cameras were planted throughout the pop icon's home.
Rosengart also addressed a crowd of Free Britney supporters gathered outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in LA and said, "Jamie Spears and others are going to face even more serious ramifications for his misconduct. I said at the outset that my firm and I were going to take a top to bottom look at what Jamie Spears and his representatives have done here, that's already in process and will continue... to get justice for Britney."
— Britney Stan 💍 (@BritneyTheStan) September 29, 2021
Britney posted in celebration of the news saying that she was "on cloud 9" and shared a video of her learning to fly a prop plane for the first time – something which fans are pointing out as symbolic of her, hopefully, upcoming complete and utter freedom:
8 September: Almost a month after indicating that he's willing to step down as the conservator of Britney's estate, Britney's father, Jamie Spears, has officially filed paperwork requesting that the court - should it see fit - should consider ending the conservatorship entirely. This includes the role of conservator of the person held by Jodi Montgomery, who is part of the private firm Pais Montgomery Fiduciary.
In the paperwork, Jamie acknowledged that after thirteen years the singer's circumstances have changed and said she should be entitled to the opportunity to once again be in control of her finances, medical decisions and be able to marry again, to her boyfriend Sam Asghari (something he's previously denied stopping).
"She wants to be able to make decisions regarding her own medical care, deciding when, where and how often to get therapy. She wants to control the money she has made from her career and spend it without supervision or oversight," the legal documents state, according to reports.
"She wants to be able to get married and have a baby, if she so chooses. In short, she wants to live her life as she chooses without the constraints of a conservator or court proceeding."
It added, "As Mr Spears has said again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter. If Ms Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr Spears believes that she should get that chance."
12 August 2021: Britney's father, James Spears, has indicated that he is willing to step down as the conservator of her estate after 13 years. After his daughter recently spoke out and accused him of conservatorship abuse, James' legal team said in a response to her petition for him to be suspended from the role that although there are "no actual grounds for suspending or removing" him, he would be willing to step aside due to the "public battle with his daughter" not being in her best interests. Exactly when his role will end is unclear though, but supporters of the Free Britney movement are taking his willingness to work on a transitional exit plan as a step in the right direction.
As reported by Variety, yesterday James' attorney wrote to the Los Angeles Superior Court saying, "It is highly debatable whether a change in conservator at this time would be in Ms. Spears’ best interests. Nevertheless, even as Mr. Spears is the unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests."
It added that Britney's father "intends to work with the Court and his daughter’s new attorney to prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator".
When responding to the news, Britney's newly appointed legal representation, Mathew Rosengart, issued a statement (again obtained by Variety) saying the decision was most welcome.
"I announced in Court on July 14 that, after 13 years of the status quo, it was time for Mr. Spears to be suspended or removed as conservator and that my firm and I would move aggressively and expeditiously for that outcome," Rosengart stated. "Twelve days later, my firm filed a Petition for Mr. Spears’s suspension and removal based on strong, insurmountable legal grounds, which were unequivocally supported by the law and all parties involved, including Jodi Montgomery, Britney Spears, and her medical team."
He added that his team look forward to continuing on their "vigorous investigation into the conduct of Mr. Spears, and others, over the past 13 years, while he reaped millions of dollars from his daughter’s estate, and I look forward to taking Mr. Spears’s sworn deposition in the near future".
Rosengart also advised that Britney's father should "remain silent and step aside immediately".
15 July 2021: Following her second court appearance in less than a month, in which singer Britney Spears again stated that she wants her father to be charged for alleged conservatorship abuse, Britney used the hashtag 'Free Britney' on social media for the first time. During the hearing, as well as stating her case once more to the judge, Britney was also told that she'd be able to appoint her own legal team rather than continuing on with attorney Samuel Ingham, who had been assigned to her through the courts.
Back in June, when delivering her heartfelt testimony asking for an end to the complex legal contract (and which saw Britney accuse her co-conservators of preventing her from having her IUD removed), the singer criticised Ingham for not doing enough to help her.
Speaking remotely, Britney told the court during this most recent appearance, "I'm here to press charges. I'm angry and I will go there. You're allowing my dad to ruin my life. I have to get rid of my dad and charge him with conservatorship abuse."
She added that she would no longer willingly partake in any further 'stupid' and time-consuming psychiatric assessments but that she would be happy for co-conservator, Jodi Montgomery, to remain in place. Britney also said she'd been prevented from drinking coffee and taking hair vitamins through the conservatorship, which she described as 'cruelty', and expressed she was afraid of her father.
In her Instagram post following the court date, Britney can be seen cartwheeling and horse riding, and the caption reads [in reference to her being granted permission to appoint her own legal team]: "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! Pssss this is me celebrating by horseback riding and doing cartwheels today 🤸♂️🤷♀️🐎 #FreeBritney."
Britney's boyfriend, actor Sam Asghari, who earlier this month posted a selfie to his Instagram Stories wearing a Free Britney t-shirt, also commented on Britney's new post using the movement's hashtag, "Internet is about to explode #freebritney."
It's reported by the BBC that Britney will now be represented by former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart, who has previously worked with the likes of Stephen Spielberg and Sean Penn, the latter of whom described Rosengart as a "tough as nails streetfighter with a big brain and bigger principles".
A recap of the 'Free Britney' movement:
How did Free Britney start?
Free Britney started when fans of the legendary Britney Spears became increasingly concerned about her legal guardianship contract, which allowed her father, Jamie Spears, to have control of her finances and personal affairs for thirteen years. He was initially given control after Britney became unwell with mental health issues in 2008.
The movement (and subsequent popular hashtag on social media) was initially thought to have been started by a podcast called Britney's Gram and a blog by Anthony Elia, which has since been shut down by Britney's team.
Jamie Spears' legal team allegedly wrote in documentation when attempting to sue Anthony for defamation: "It's time for the conspiracy theories about Britney Spears' well-being and the mob #FreeBritney movement to stop... Over the past few months, Britney and her father Jamie have sat by while fans have accused them of numerous false and malicious things, including attempts to mislead the public with the content that appears on her social media."
How is Britney's financial freedom restricted by the conservatorship?
A financial trust, known as the SJB Revocable Trust, was set up in 2004 by Britney in order to protect her money and assets, plus protect her children's, Sean and Jayden, inheritance (Britney reportedly has about 30% of the shared custody of them, the rest of the time the boys spend with their father, Kevin Federline).
However, her name was reportedly removed as a trustee when she was placed under conservatorship in 2008, after she publicly experienced a mental health breakdown, and the court appointed "temporary successors of the trust".
The arrangement saw the singer relinquish all legal control over her estate, financial and personal assets. Instead those rights have been granted to her father and legal team. Typically, a contract such as this is reserved for severely mentally incapacitated people, but fans are arguing that since 2008 she has been on world tours, completed a Vegas residency and released new music, therefore proving she's capable of living an independent life once more.
In October 2018, Britney announced a second Vegas residency, but it was later cancelled – she said due to her father’s sudden poor health. It was later reported that Britney had also checked into a mental health facility [she has subsequently said this was not her choice].
Supporters of the #FreeBritney movement are adamant that Britney has been manipulated, is being controlled by her father and should have greater autonomy over her own life. However, other sources report that she is already heavily involved in any decision-making and that she is happy with the arrangement.
Documents show that in 2018, the singer spent $400,000 on living expenses, $66,000 on household supplies and $1.1 million on her legal and conservator fees. Her father made $128,000 from his involvement, according to ET. In September 2019, Britney's father was accused (and then cleared) of hitting her eldest son, Sean. The police report was filed by Kevin Federline.
Fans regularly leave comments urging Britney to wear a certain colour in her next video if she needs help, or have written saying their messages of concern have been deleted from underneath her social media posts. Others praise her for being a source of positivity on social media and say they love watching her dancing videos, seeing her new outfits or pictures of flowers.
How are the rest of Britney's family involved in the Free Britney movement?
In July 2020, Britney's mother, Lynne, reportedly filed legal documents asking to receive special notice on "all matters" pertaining to Britney’s income and assets, making it clear that she too wants a say in how the star's $59m fortune is used and protected. Vanity Fair noted that she liked comments from fans suggesting the conservatorship is an infringement on Britney's rights.
Then, a month later, it was reported that Britney asked a Californian court to put a stop to her father's, Jamie Spears, role as her legal guardian (which sees him have control over all her finances, schedule and more), and have those responsibilities handed over to an outside, professional source on a full-time basis.
At the time, Jamie had stepped back from his role due to health issues and the reigns were handed over to Jodi Montgomery, who is part of the private firm, Pais Montgomery Fiduciary, who, it was reported, the singer wished to have permanent control of her conservatorship. Britney’s former lawyer Samuel D Ingham III said she is "strongly opposed" to her father resuming his position as head of her affairs.
Britney's younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, (who has been vocal about defending her sibling's health issues on social media) then appeared to be taking a more active role in managing the pop icon's finances. The LA Times reported that in a court filing, Jamie Lynn was named as trustee of the estate set up to protect Britney's children financially in the event of her death, and is requesting that all of those assets be consolidated into accounts wherein she is the custodian.
Having previously maintained a silence on the matter, Jamie Lynn, posted a series of Instagram Stories on 29 June 2021 saying she supports her sibling, but that she prefers to do so out of the limelight. "I felt like until my sister was able to speak for herself and say what she felt she needed to say publicly, it wasn’t my place and it wasn’t the right thing to do," she told her followers. "But now that she’s very clearly spoken and said what she needed to say, I feel like I can follow her lead and say what I feel I need to say."
What is known about Britney's mental health?
In truth, nothing is clearcut and it's unfair to speculate. In April last year, a video that Britney uploaded to Instagram saw her tell fans her gym had burned down after she'd left candles unattended (however some are now suggesting that the fire was deliberate after she learned that hidden cameras has been placed in the gym). Britney has also posted other similarly 'erratic' content online (including a video showing her snapping her ankle while dancing).
Many posted concerned comments saying they were worried about her mental state – with some suggesting Britney's issues are caused by the conservatorship and lack of freedom she holds, whereas others took her social posts as evidence that a conservatorship should remain in place. Others have argued that she may not be in control of her social media.
Towards the end of last year, Britney Spears' former lawyer, Samuel D Ingham III, is said to have described her mental state as "comatose". According to a report from TMZ, Ingham also told a court judge that the Toxic hitmaker doesn't want to perform again, but that her father is intent on her career continuing.
It's believed that when the judge asked Ingham if Britney would be willing to sign a declaration of her feelings, Ingham said his client lacked the capacity to make such a declaration, likening her to a comatose patient. Ingham, it's reported, was not saying Britney is comatose, but he used the expression by way of demonstrating her inability to sign a legal document. He added that even comatose patients are able to have their lawyers speak on their behalf.
In contrast to this, in her own damning testimony, Britney said in June that after refusing to perform a series of shows in Las Vegas, her therapist branded her as 'uncooperative' and switched her usual medication over to lithium. "Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing [at this time], my dad was all for it," Britney told Judge Brenda Penny while making her request for her father to be removed from his role as conservator. "Anything that happened to me had to be approved by my dad."
Following being deemed 'uncooperative', Britney added that her father then forced her to stay in a $60,000 a night facility and that in her opinion, he enjoyed having control over her.
The mother-of-two also shared with the judge how truly unhappy she has been in recent years. "I’ve lied and told the whole world 'I’m OK and I’m happy' [but] it’s a lie," Britney told the court. "I thought I just maybe if I said that enough maybe I might become happy. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. But now I’m telling you the truth... I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day."
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