In the last few days, pop icon Britney Spears has been back in the media spotlight. Not for a new song, tour, or video, but because she publicly addressed the Los Angeles Superior Court in a hearing for her controversial conservatorship for the first time since its inception 13 years ago.
In the realm of probate, estates, and the like, there is a relatively less well-known area of the law: guardianships, or depending on what state you live, conservatorships. Essentially these are legal mechanisms of last resort, whereby an individual, or "ward" has been determined by a court to be unable to manage their own affairs, be they financial, social, medical, or some combination thereof. There is a very high burden in such cases, and the court is typically aided by a team of medical professionals and other witnesses that must present testimony and other evidence to prove the subject individual needs control of their finances, or health, or what-have-you, handled by someone other than themselves.
In Britney Spears' case, she has been subject to such court-ordered conservatorship since roughly 2008 -- going on 13 years now. The terms of this conservatorship are not well known to the public, but based on Instagram posts and statements from the beloved starlet in the past, it has been generally understood that she has no control over her financial assets, estimated to be in the ballpark of $60 million. Her estate has instead been controlled by various trusts and her father, Jamie Spears.
In this week's Court appearance, Britney Spears shined further light on the extent of the terms, revealing a litany of troublesome terms and accusing her father of essentially abusing her and relishing in the power he has over her. A transcript of her 23-minute revelation and plea to the court for dissolution of the conservatorship's terms can be found here. In her statement she described several circumstances of self-described mistreatment, including forced birth control, forced performances, forced psychiatric treatment, forced medications, and general lack of privacy with 24-hour surveillance.
While there is plenty of media speculation regarding what prompted the conservatorship and whether it had or currently has grounds to exist, the fact is, the majority of court documents in this kind of case are private. Without knowing what her doctors and psychiatrists have said, pretty much all opinions offered legal and otherwise, are speculative at best.
That said, in the past 13 years, Britney Spears has performed all over the world, and had her own Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood from 2013-2017, performing nearly 250 shows and grossing close to $138 million from nealry 900,000 tickets sold according to sources.
Again, without knowing all the facts it is hard to weigh in, but I know this-- Britney Spears is not a slave or a trained monkey. If she was able to perform nightly shows for years on end, to sold out crowds, then a conservatorship hardly seemed appropriate; conversely, if such a restrictive conservatorship (according to Spears she even plied with Lithium as one point) was in fact necessary, then why were those around her allowed to profit so substantially off of such a very sick woman? In short, my take is one of consistency: either she was too incompetent to make her handlers rich, or, she was competent and her handlers have been exploiting her through complicated court proceedings.
Don't even get me started on what she has been spending millions on legal fees for (she paid over $1.2 million in JUST 2019), especially since her lawyer is court appointed and she has not been permitted to hire her own lawyer.
So if you've seen #FreeBritney trending, this is why.