Ever since Britney Spears shaved her head, got arrested for reckless driving and seemingly lost control of her career, the pop singer's mental state has been questioned by observers. Her career is now on the upswing once again, with a hit album and a coming tour, but the issue of her mental competence is still pertinent.
Spears' ex-manager, Sam Lutfi, is pursuing legal claims against the singer's mother, Lynne Spears, and wants Britney to give a deposition. Britney's parents, though, are resisting, saying that Britney is mentally incapable of testifying. In a motion filed on Monday at Los Angeles Superior Court, Lutfi asked a judge to order a psychiatric evaluation of the singer to prove that's not true.
Despite Spears' comeback, she's still under the conservatorship of her father, James Parnell Spears, and family lawyer, Andrew Wallet. Both are hesitant to let the singer get too close with Lutfi, who was fired in 2008.
As detailed in Lynne Spears' memoir, Through the Storm, Lutfi was allegedly a master manipulator who secretly drugged Britney, cut off her communications and mobility, and set himself up as the celebrity's "gatekeeper" before he was fired.
Lutfi says those things aren't true. He claims that Britney's life was already a mess before he got involved. He's suing for defamation, and last November, an appeals court refused to toss the lawsuit. So the battle rages on.
The ex-manager now wants Britney to give her side of the story, but her conservators don't want that.
In turn, Lutfi points to a recent MTV documentary about the singer, a coming world tour, and an interview conducted with Britney by Ryan Seacrest in March as circumstantial evidence that the singer has got her wits about her again.
Although Britney hasn't yet submitted to a psychiatric evaluation, Lutfi took the evidence to his own expert, UCLA Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Joshua Pretsky, for analysis. According to Pretsky's declaration to the court:
"In the Ryan Seacrest interview, which was recorded approximately two months ago, Britney Spears is interviewed at length, and she responds logically and coherently to questions, evidencing logical thinking and mental competency. The edited interviews in the [MTV] video documentary also evidence coherent and logical thinking, responsiveness to questions, and mental competence ... In my opinion, there is good cause to conduct an Independent Medical Examination to investigate the Conservators' claim that Ms. Spears is not mentally capable of testifying, and the claim that she was not mentally competent to enter into a binding contract. ..."
Of course, there may be more on the line than just whether Britney is testifying in Lutfi's lawsuit or not. If she's declared mentally fit, it could go some ways to unwinding the conservatorship over the 29-year-old singer.