The 13-year legal conservatorship over Britney Spears was formally terminated by a Los Angeles judge Friday after months of pressure by a passionate #FreeBritney movement, though investigations of her father and wrangling over legal bills will likely continue.
At a hearing in L.A. County Superior Court, Judge Brenda Penny legally ended an arrangement that was imposed in 2008 following a string of erratic behavior and public incidents by the superstar singer.
“Effective today the conservatorship of Ms. Britney Jean Spears is no longer required,” Judge Penny said to a courtroom packed with media and activists.
The move was largely expected after Spears’ father Jamie Spears – who controlled the conservatorship for years – caved to pressure from fans, activists and Britney herself to end the arrangement. He was suspended in September and earlier this month called for an “unconditional” end to the setup.
Yet it was still watershed moment for the #FreeBritney movement, which grew over the past year amid the release of high-profile investigative documentaries that drew attention to the conservatorship and to her father’s control over her life. It capped off a frenzied five months of legal wrangling that began in June, when Britney broke her silence in a hearing in which she called it “abusive” and pleaded with a judge that “I just want my life back.”
— Kat Tenbarge (@kattenbarge) November 12, 2021
At the press conference outside the courthouse, Britney’s attorney Mathew Rosengart addressed a raucous crowd celebrating Judge Penny’s ruling.
“This is a monumental day for Britney Spears,” the attorney said. “It’s also a somber day, for me, for Britney and I think for a lot of us who have been following conservatorships and how they operate.”
Despite the seeming finality of Friday’s order, it will not end the legal battle over Britney’s life just yet.
Rosengart – a former federal prosecutor – has vowed to investigate serious accusations of wrongdoing by her father, including that she was drugged, that she was unable to remove a birth control device, and that she was secretly recorded. Rosengart has filed subpoenas seeking documents and a sworn deposition from Jamie, and has suggested that the father’s sudden about-face was an effort to avoid such scrutiny.
"What's next for Britney –– and this is the first time that this could be said for about a decade –– is up to one person: Britney." –Britney Spears' lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, following her court hearing.
— billboard (@billboard) November 12, 2021
In the filing earlier this month, the elder Spears vowed to fully cooperate with investigations into the conservatorship. He said such transparency would put an end to “innuendo, misrepresentations and impudent gossip” about the arrangement.
In addressing the crowd following Friday’s hearing, Rosengart left unresolved whether he would continue his investigation into a structure that he said had been “corrupted” by Spears’ father.
“Many people have asked about whether we will continue to investigate Mr. Spears,” Rosengart told the crowd. “The answer ultimately is up to my client Britney and I’m not going to get into it beyond that.”
Another looming battle will be over legal bills. Both sides will likely request that their legal fees be paid from funds controlled by the conservatorship, and Judge Penny must approve such a request. And earlier this month, Britney’s mother Lynne Spears filed a request in court seeking to be reimbursed for $650,000 she paid to two law firms for work on the case.
All remaining issues could be discussed at the next hearing before Judge Penny, which is currently scheduled for December 8. At Friday’s hearing, Rosengart said told the judge that a “personal and financial” safety net had been put in place for Britney; he also said that a temporary conservator, who replaced Jamie after his suspension, would stay on in a limited capacity for a short period of time.
–Additional reporting by Chris Gardner