Three months after Britney Spears publicly called for an end to her “abusive” conservatorship – which began in 2008 and later sparked the #FreeBritney fan movement – the singer’s father, Jamie Spears, has been suspended from his role as conservator.
The suspension was ordered by Judge Brenda Penny in a hearing at the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles yesterday (September 29). Per the Los Angeles Times, Penny said: “I do believe that the suspension of James Spears as conservator … is in the best interest of the conservatee. This order shall be made in full force and effect.”
Britney’s conservatorship was not ended outright, however, with accountant John Zabel – nominated by Britney’s team – being appointed as an interim fiduciary conservator. Jamie was ordered to turn over all assets to Zabel as soon as possible.
The New York Times report that during today’s hearing, Jamie’s lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen, argued to have Britney’s conservatorship ended on the spot, rather than have her client suspended. That was contested by Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, who argued for a new hearing to be held within 30 to 45 days in order for Jamie’s conduct to be investigated.
Earlier this week, Jamie’s lawyers had objected in court documents to the instalment of a temporary conservator to replace Jamie, in particular opposing the appointment of John Zabel, whom they said was not qualified for the role as he “does not appear to have the background and experience required to take over a complex, $60 million (approx.) conservatorship estate on a temporary or immediate basis”.
In response, Rosengart branded Jamie a “reported alcoholic and gambling addict, with zero financial background or experience in financial matters, who previously filed for bankruptcy and has a Domestic Violence Restraining Order currently in effect against him”.
The decision to suspend Jamie from his role followed newly reported allegations he had been secretly surveilling Britney with cameras installed in her bedroom and a tap on her phone. The claims were made in the New York Times documentary Controlling Britney Spears, released last Friday as a follow-up to February’s Framing Britney Spears.
Britney’s legal team responded to the allegations, saying that if they were true, Jamie had demonstrated “horrifying and unconscionable invasions of his adult daughter’s privacy”. A lawyer for Jamie told the New York Times that “all of his actions were well within the parameters of the authority conferred upon him by the court. His actions were done with the knowledge and consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney, and/or the court.”
These allegations joined previous claims made by Britney in a landmark hearing in June, where she labelled the conservatorship “abusive” and claimed that while under the arrangement she was forbidden from having more children, getting married, or taking out her IUD. Jamie’s lawyers responded in a court filing that Jamie “is simply not involved in any decisions related to Ms. Spears’s personal care or medical or reproductive issues”.
In August, Jamie began proceedings to step down as Britney’s conservator, with his filing arguing that while he believes he is the “unremitting target of unjustified attacks, he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests”.
In September, Jamie filed a petition to have Britney’s conservatorship ended entirely. He had previously been adamant that there were “no grounds whatsoever” to have him removed from the singer’s conservatorship.
In the September filing, Jamie called for a court hearing on the matter to be set for January 2022. Britney and her team fired back, with Rosengart urging Jamie’s “immediate and necessary suspension” by “no later than [September] 29”.
One of the key reasons Britney wanted to accelerate the process was so that she’d be able to make a prenuptial agreement with her fiance Sam Asghari. “The prenuptial agreement process will require communications with and cooperation from the conservator of her estate,” Rosengart said in his filing.
Another new documentary about the singer and her conservatorship, Britney vs. Spears, was released by Netflix on Tuesday (September 28). NME gave it a two-star review, with writer Nick Levine arguing that it “never fully justifies its own existence”, and “verges on trauma porn” with its eagerness to “rehash painful episodes from the singer’s past en route to explaining the desperately sad situation she is currently trapped in”.