A judge has suspended Jamie Spears as the conservator of his daughter Britney Spears’ estate, effectively ending his 13-year reign controlling every aspect of Britney’s life and career.
During the hearing, which some fans and #FreeBritney supporters hoped would be the singer’s last, Judge Brenda Penny essentially had three options: end Spears’ conservatorship altogether, suspend Jamie and appoint a temporarily successor, or deny any changes to the arrangement and continue with the status quo.
“The current situation is not tenable,” Judge Penny ruled, adding that Jamie’s suspension was “in the best interest of the conservatee.”
In addition, TMZ reports that Jamie must turn over all books and records associated with the conservatorship. To that point, Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, actually asked the judge not to end the conservatorship today, but rather in 30 to 45 days so that Britney’s legal team can determine whether any “corruption” took place under Jamie’s watch.
The court appearance was the pop star’s first since Jamie agreed to step down as conservator and petitioned the court earlier this month to end his daughter’s conservatorship amid mounting pressure and public outcry. While Jamie’s actions appear helpful to his daughter’s case, the two petitions actually contradicted one another, adding another level of confusion to the proceedings and Judge Penny’s decision.
By asking for an orderly termination of the conservatorship, Jamie sought to avoid having to turn over fiduciary records pertaining to his management of the estate, argued Rosengart, who previously called for an investigation into Jamie’s conduct. Rosengart has accused Jamie of using Britney’s estate as a slush fund to cover his own expenses, including paying his own legal fees to prevent Spears from exiting the conservatorship. Rosengart also accused Jamie of using his voluntary departure from the conservatorship as a form of extortion, as he demanded that the estate pay $2 million in outstanding fees.
The hearing also arrives days after the premiere of Controlling Britney Spears, the New York Times’ follow-up to its bombshell Hulu documentary Framing Britney Spears, which brought major attention to the newly-engaged singer’s legal nightmare following its February unveiling. The new doc included allegations that Jamie had bugged Britney’s home and cellphone against her knowledge, a point which Rosengart repeatedly brought up during today’s hearing.
Today’s filing is the stunning culmination of a legal battle that has persisted for years — mostly in secret. Britney’s conservatorship was first put in place in 2008, following a series of mental health issues and public breakdowns. For years, Britney hinted at her displeasure over the conservatorship through legal filings and cryptic social media posts, prompting fans to launch the #FreeBritney movement.
Finally, in June 2021, Britney went public in a bombshell court appearance during which she described the conservatorship as “abusive” and said her father should be investigated. She spoke about being barred from marriage and forced to continue using an IUD despite her desire to have more children. She also said she’d been put on lithium against her wishes.
Britney’s testimony had immediate and immense ramifications. Within a week, her court-appointed attorney, her manager, and her co-conservator all resigned from their posts. For the first time in 13 years, she was allowed to hire her own legal representation, who immediately took steps to end the conservatorship. Even Congress became involved, introducing a conservatorship reform bill inspired by Britney’s plight.
John Zabel, an accountant, will temporarily replace Jamie as the conservator of Britney’s estate, while Jodi Montgomery, who manages the singer’s day-to-day wellbeing and medical decisions, will remain in her role for the time being. A decision on the longterm fate of the conservatorship — and whether to terminate it permanently — will be heard during a future hearing scheduled for November 12th.
Update – September 30th: In a statement released through his attorney, Jamie Spears calls the court’s decision “a loss for Britney.”
“Mr. Spears loves his daughter Britney unconditionally. For thirteen years, he has tried to do what is in her best interests, whether as a conservator or her father. This started with agreeing to serve as her conservator when she voluntarily entered into the conservatorship. This included helping her revive her career and re-establish a relationship with her children. For anyone who has tried to help a family member dealing with mental health issues, they can appreciate the tremendous amount of daily worry and work this required. For Mr. Spears, this also meant biting his tongue and not responding to all the false, speculative, and unsubstantiated attacks on him by certain members of the public, media, or more recently, Britney’s own attorney.
These facts make the outcome of yesterday’s hearing all the more disappointing, and frankly, a loss for Britney. Respectfully, the court was wrong to suspend Mr. Spears, put a stranger in his place to manage Britney’s estate, and extend the very conservatorship that Britney begged the court to terminate earlier this summer. Again, it was Mr. Spears who took the initiative to file the petition to terminate the conservatorship when neither Britney’s former court-appointed counsel nor her new privately-retained attorney would do so. It was Mr. Spears who asked the court at yesterday’s hearing to immediately terminate the conservatorship while Britney’s own attorney argued against it.
Despite the suspension, Mr. Spears will continue to look out for the best interests of his daughter and work in good faith towards a positive resolution of all matters.”