“I believe that the suspension of Mr. James Spears as conservator of the estate of Britney Spears is in the best interests of the conservatee, Britney Spears,” Judge Brenda Penny said. “The current situation is not tenable.”
Penny set a follow-up hearing for November 12th to consider full termination of the conservatorship. Spears’ lawyer Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, tells Rolling Stone that the “hope and expectation” is that the conservatorship will be terminated on that date with no order for any further mental evaluation.
“Mr. Spears himself, in his last filing, said not once or twice, but three times, that no mental evaluation was necessary. Britney doesn’t believe a mental evaluation is necessary, and I certainly don’t, so that’s telling,” Rosengart said as he left the courthouse. “What today was about was suspending Jamie Spears, receiving the files, receiving the communication between Jamie Spears and his representatives, and we succeeded in every regard, on all of those fronts.”
During the hearing, Rosengart said the court had a “mountain of evidence mandating” the suspension, chiefly his own client’s sworn testimony to the court over the summer. “It was Britney Spears who testified he is toxic in her life. It was Britney Spears who testified he was cruel,” Rosengart told the judge. “My client will be so extraordinarily distraught if Mr. Spears remains conservator for one more day.”
Jamie’s lead lawyer, Vivian Thoreen, argued against the suspension, saying it would be more expedient simply to terminate the conservatorship on Wednesday without the interim step of suspending her client. She argued Jamie has “faithfully and loyally” served his daughter and wasn’t comfortable handing over her finances to a temporary replacement. But the judge sided with Britney, appointing the singer’s choice of certified public accountant John Zabel to assume control of her finances as her conservatorship winds down. Penny ordered Jamie to “turn over all the conservatorship assets” to Zabel.
Penny said the pleadings in the case convinced her that Jamie’s position at the helm of his daughter’s estate created a “toxic environment” for his daughter. The pivotal decision came after the pop star made searing statements in open court in June and July, accusing her dad of steering an “abusive” and “demoralizing” conservatorship that left her feeling “bullied” and “alone.”
“He works me so hard,” Britney told Judge Brenda Penny on June 23rd, calling Jamie an “ignorant father” who should be in jail for the way he treated her. “How come I was always threatened by my dad and anybody that participated in this conservatorship, if I don’t do this, what they enslave me to do, they’re going to punish me?”
“I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry it’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day,” she said. “I just want my life back. It’s been 13 years, and it’s enough. It’s been a long time since I’ve owned my money. And it’s my wish and my dream for all of this to end without being tested.”
Britney claimed the conservatorship granted in 2008 amid concerns over her mental health and possible substance abuse forced her to work against her will, compelled her to take powerful drugs that left her feeling “drunk,” cut her off from friends and led her to believe she couldn’t remove an IUD to try for another child.
Since she first spoke up June 23rd, Judge Penny allowed her to hire new lawyer Mathew Rosengart in July and to address the court for a second time.
“This conservatorship is literally allowing my dad to ruin my life,” she said during that second round of surprise telephone testimony played live in a Los Angeles courtroom. Her back-to-back statements sparked a firestorm of support from the #FreeBritney movement and set the stage for her July 26th petition asking to suspend and remove Jamie.
Outside the courthouse on Wednesday, the atmosphere was jubilant. Scores of #FreeBritney supporters cheered the ruling as Rosengart stepped up to a battery of microphones to address the media and fans. “Today is a great day,” he said. “It’s a great day for Britney Spears and it’s a great day for justice. And there’s definitely something to celebrate. But it’s also a solemn day. Britney Spears has been faced with a decade-long nightmare, a Kafkaesque nightmare orchestrated by her father and others, and I’m so proud of her for her courage, her strength, and her poignancy. And I’ve only been on this matter a couple months, but I’m proud to say we’ve gotten to know each other very well, and she’s so pleased, and she’s so thankful to all of you.”