It only took 13 years, but Britney Spears is finally on the verge of freedom. On Wednesday, Judge Brenda J. Penny suspended Jamie Spears, Britney’s father, as conservator of her estate, which he has controlled since 2008. This significant move sets the stage for ending the conservatorship altogether. “I do believe that the suspension of James Spears as conservator … is in the best interest of the conservatee,” Penny said. “The current situation is not tenable. It reflects a toxic environment, which requires the immediate suspension of Jamie Spears today.”
Penny ordered Jamie to turn over all assets to John Zabel, a certified public accountant handpicked by Britney’s team, who will replace Jamie as a fiduciary, interim conservator. Penny also set a hearing for November 12 regarding the forthcoming termination of the conservatorship, with an additional date set for December 13 to settle up loose financial threads.
Britney’s attorney, Mathew Rosengart, said in the aftermath of the decision, “I think you can assume she’s very happy,” while adding to reporters that “the goal” is to free Britney from her conservatorship fully by her 40th birthday on December 2.
And yes, it’s easy to assume Britney is very happy today, based on what she said in court testimony in June. Declaring “I’m so angry, it’s insane,” Britney alleged that her conservators forced her to work nonstop and take medication that left her incapacitated, prohibited her from marrying her boyfriend (now fiancé) and blocked her from removing the intrauterine device that prevents her from having children.
We’ve since heard even more shocking allegations about the level of surveillance kept on Britney by her father, but it was her initial public testimony that sparked outcry from fans and the general public. Perhaps most surprisingly, there was also an outpouring of concern for Britney’s plight from a number of politicians across the political aisle.
“No matter who you are, no matter where you are politically, just hearing about that ... the degree of control that’s been exerted over her life, it’s disturbing,” Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania argued in an interview shortly after her testimony. “It’s offensive to a lot of Americans.”
Casey ultimately joined Senator Elizabeth Warren in calling for more federal oversight of the country’s guardianship system following Britney Spears’ emotional testimony about her conservatorship. “Ms Spears’ case has shined a light on longstanding concerns from advocates who have underscored the potential for financial and civil rights abuses of individuals placed under guardianship or conservatorship,” Warren and Casey wrote in a letter shared with Time. “Despite these concerns, comprehensive data regarding guardianship (referred to as conservatorship in some states) in the United States are substantially lacking — hindering policymakers and advocates’ efforts to understand gaps and abuses in the system and find ways to address them.”
Separately, Senator Ted Cruz tweeted simply: “#FreeBritney,” along with a clip from his podcast, Verdict with Ted Cruz, where he said: “On the question of the conservatorship, I am squarely and unequivocally in the camp of FreeBritney. I think this is freaking ridiculous what is happening to Britney Spears, and it needs to end.”
In July, Democratic Congressman Charlie Crist of Florida and Republican Congresswoman Nancy Mace introduced legislation on the topic to give further protections to people under guardianship and conservatorship. “Conservatorships undoubtedly protect countless vulnerable Americans from abuse, but the case of Britney Spears reveals a darker side to a system meant to protect people,” Mace said in a statement at the time.
Of course, there was also the disgraced Congressman Matt Gaetz, who may not have been necessarily welcomed alongside Britney’s fans protesting her conservatorship outside of the courtroom in July, but made his presence felt after slamming Jamie Spears as a “d**k” and a “grifter.” Gaetz certainly has his own legal troubles to worry over related to potential charges of the sex trafficking of a minor, though he would probably argue that he and Republican Jim Jordan have been pushing for hearings to challenge March.
It’s been somewhat surreal to see so many politicians from different political parties meet the #FreeBritney movement, but it’s not totally unexplainable.
In their reporting on Capitol Hill’s entrance into the debate, Politico reporters Marianne Levine, Olivia Beavers, and Victoria Colliver write: “For progressives, she stands out as a victim of a setup that’s put her father and a wealth management company in control of her finances. For conservatives, Spears is a burgeoning libertarian icon, asserting her free will in the face of a judicial complex that at its worst is blamed for exploitation of senior citizens and young people.”
Unfortunately, nice as it is for both political parties to agree that Britney Spears deserves better, one hopes that those who spoke on her behalf won’t forget about this issue once she formally breaks free. Because if it took 13 years for someone as powerful as international pop icon Britney Spears to escape this legal nightmare, what chance does the average person have?
“Britney is such a perfect example of everything that I’ve been fighting for,” Mona Montgomery, a former conservatorship attorney, recently explained to the Los Angeles Times. “She represents thousands of people who are presently locked up against their will, with no due process … and she’s an icon of a group of people who need to be freed.”
Those people need advocates, too, and in spite of the reality that there’s only so much lawmakers can do on a matter largely controlled by states versus the federal government, they have the ability to reform the unjust system upon which Britney Spears has shed a light.
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