Britney Spears has been considered the Princess of Pop by many, sold out multiple venues and won many awards. Spears has been on the cover of many magazines and countless articles have scrutinized her career, relationship and all her personal life since she was a teen. Spears had been through a divorce and an ongoing custody battle with her ex-husband. In 2007 Britney Spears went into a salon and shaved her head. A few days later she was pictured hitting a reporter’s car with an umbrella. She was in disputes with her ex-husband Kevin Federline over custody of their two boys. Eventually she would lose custody of her children that would lead to her locking herself in a bathroom with her son and refuse to give him back to his father, and to her first involuntary psychiatric hold. Psychiatric holds along with Britney befriending con artist and dating paparazzi that was also giving her drugs is what led to her father to file for a conservatorship and take control of her financial and personal affairs.
Jamie Spears, her father made a petition to the court for a temporary conservatorship that became permanent in October of 2008. The judge, Reva Goetz, who has since retired, arrived and announced that the conservatorship had been granted. According to a family friend, “The whole process was maybe ten minutes. No one testified. No questions were asked.”
Jamie Spears and attorney Andrew Wallet became Britney’s conservators. Britney would now need permission for everything including business decisions, health, voting, marriage and all her purchases including a simple trip to get coffee would now need to be tracked and approved.
A conservatorship is when a court appoints a responsible person or organization(conservator) to care for another adult (conservatee). The main purpose of these arrangements is to provide care for adults that have serious mental illness. Typically, these are adults with debilitating mental illness that will need restrictive living arrangements and are unable to provide for their own needs.
The state of California lists conservatee’s rights under section 1.5 which are: the right to have their wishes considered, ask questions, and express the concerns of conservatorship, question conservator actions, has for review of conservatorship handling, directly receive and control salary, retain personal rights and to ask judge to change conservators or to end conservatorship.
According to California the need for a conservatorship arrangement is when the person has a severe disability such as physical, mental or developmental issue that they can no longer manage their own affairs. There is also no alternative arrangement as no person is legally authorized to or willing to manage the person’s finances and there are no other forms of assistance that may be able to help the disabled person to manage day to day affairs.
Britney Life Under the Conservatorship
During the conservatorship Ms. Spears made millions and performed hundreds of shows. In 2009 she did 97 shows, and grossed 131.8 million, 2011: 79 shows and 68.7 million, 2013-2017: 248 shows and 137.7 million, 2018: 30 shows and 54.3 million. Since the establishment of Spears’s conservatorship, she has released four albums, and performed for four years in a hit Las Vegas residency. Yet her conservators, who include her father, Jamie Spears, have controlled her spending, communications, and personal decisions.
Running the business of Britney had become routine: every Thursday at noon, about ten people responsible for managing Spears’s legal and business affairs, public relations, and social media met to discuss merchandise deals, song-license requests, and Spears’s posts to Instagram and Twitter. “This is how it works without her,” one member of the team said.
Many employees (housekeepers, dancers, friends, and family) witnessed her being abused by her father. Yet, no one spoke up, called the police, or helped her.
As part of the conservatorship Britney lost the right to hire her own attorney, and instead she was appointed an attorney by the court. Sam Ingham III was appointed as her lawyer, and Judge Goetz has awarded Mr. Ingham as much as $475.00 and hour to represent Ms. Spears citing an exception to court rule fees in cases that involve problems that require extraordinary expertise. According to a 2016 article Mr. Ingham has been awarded approximately two million since being appointed by the court in 2008. In October 2020 the judge wanted to get a signed description from Britney giving a first-hand account of her feelings, but Ingham denied Britney the chance to do this by saying that her mental capacity was that of a comatose (unconscious) patient and lacked the capacity to sign a sworn declaration.
Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, was appointed as her conservator. Mr. Spears makes approximately $130,000 to be Britney’s conservator. Since the conservatorship was established between conservator and legal fees Britney has spent approximately 1.1 million. Britney has requested to have her dad removed from the conservatorship as she is not happy with the way her father has handled the conservatorship.
When the conservatorship was first established Andrew Wallet, a lawyer, was a co-conservator Mr. Wallet was managing the estate and was being paid $426,00 a year, and in 2019 Ingham negotiated his removal in exchange for a $100,000.00 payment as she would no longer be performing and could no longer afford his services. In addition, Britney’s mother, siblings, and family friends were also on the payroll.
The three main people managing Britney’s conservatorship are all making a large amount of funds and are the ones that seem to benefit the most from this arrangement. If it was to be in Britney’s best interest to end the conservatorship the conservators and her court appointed lawyer would have the most to lose.
In April, Spears had requested a hearing, in open court, to discuss the terms of the arrangement. It was scheduled for June 23rd, 2021.
On the eve of the hearing, according both to a person close to Spears and to law enforcement in Ventura County, California, where she lives, Spears called 911 to report herself as a victim of conservatorship abuse. Members of Spears’s team began texting one another frantically. They were worried about what Spears might say the next day, and they discussed how to prepare in the event that she went rogue.
In court on the 23rd, an attorney for the conservatorship urged the judge to clear the courtroom and seal the transcript of Spears’s testimony. Spears, calling into the hearing, objected. “Somebody’s done a good job at exploiting my life,” she said, adding, “I feel like it should be an open-court hearing—they should listen and hear what I have to say.” Then, for the first time in years, Spears spoke for herself, sounding lucid and furious, talking so fast that the judge interjected repeatedly to tell her to slow down, to allow for accurate transcription.
“The people who did this to me should not get away,” Spears said. Addressing the
judge directly, she added, “Ma’am, my dad, and anyone involved in this conservatorship,
and my management, who played a huge role in punishing me when I said no—
Ma’am, they should be in jail.”
For the next twenty minutes, Spears described how she had been isolated, medicated, financially exploited, and emotionally abused. She assigned harsh blame to the California legal system, which she said let it all happen.
She added that she had tried to complain to the court before but had been ignored, which made her “feel like I was dead,” she said— “like I didn’t matter.” She wanted to share her story publicly, she said, “instead of it being a hush-hush secret to benefit all of them.” She added, “It concerns me I’ve been told I’m not allowed to expose the people who did this to me.” At one point, she told the court, “All I want is to own my money, for this to end, and for my boyfriend to drive me in his fucking car.”