Britney Spears’ fight for freedom returns to court as top civil rights groups intervene

Britney Spears’ conservatorship battle will continue with a Los Angeles court hearing Wednesday afternoon (14 July).

The hearing comes just weeks after Britney Spears hit out at the complex legal arrangement, called a conservatorship, that she says has left her without basic freedoms in an explosive court appearance.

A high-profile lawyer is expected to ask for permission to represent Britney Spears in her bid for freedom at the hearing, which is expected to begin at 1.30pm local time (9.30pm BST).

It is not yet clear if the “Toxic” singer will make an appearance at Wednesday’s hearing

However, The New York Times has reported that she wants Hollywood legal powerhouse Mathew Rosengart to take the reins in her complicated legal battle, and it is widely expected that he will ask the judge for permission to represent the singer.

A supporter of Britney Spears holds a sign during a #FreeBritney protest outside American Airlines Arena on February 11, 2021 in Miami, Florida. (John Parra/Getty)

Spears has the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, which along with 25 civil rights and disability rights organisations has field an amicus brief with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County urging it ensure she has the right to choose her own attorney.

“Britney Spears has said that she wants to pick her own lawyer and the court should respect that wish,” said Zoë Brennan-Krohn, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project.

“The court should ensure Spears has access to the tools she needs to make that choice meaningfully and to hire someone she trusts to advocate for her stated goal: to get out of her conservatorship.

“Spears’s right to select an attorney is not only a basic tenet of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, but also consistent with principles of personal autonomy and agency.”

Free Britney campaigners have planned a rally outside the courthouse, with similar shows of solidarity planned in Washington DC and London, England.

Why Britney Spears is fighting for freedom

If Rosengart is made counsel, it would mark a significant shift for Britney Spears’ conservatorship battle.

She was first placed under the legal arrangement in 2008, which has allowed her father Jamie Spears and others to exert significant control over both her finances and personal life.

Jamie Spears is currently co-conservator of her estate, with care professional Jodi Montgomery having replaced him as conservator of her person in September 2019.

Britney Spears’ relationship with her father has become increasingly strained in the years since, and her court testimony – as well as leaked court documents – indicate that she has been expressing discontent with the arrangement for years.

When the conservatorship was put in place, the courts denied Spears the right to choose her own representation, instead appointing Samuel Ingham III as her court-appointed lawyer.

But in her fiery court testimony in June, Spears hit out at Ingham, claiming she never knew she could ask to have her conservatorship terminated.

 

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“I’m sorry for my ignorance but I honestly didn’t know that,” Spears said. “My attorney says I can’t – it’s not good, I can’t let the public know anything they did to me.”

She added: “He told me I should keep it to myself, really.”

Her dramatic 20-minute long testimony, which was delivered virtually, prompted Ingham to request that he be removed from the case.

Ingham’s resignation reportedly led Spears to Rosengart, a highly influential Hollywood lawyer and former federal prosecutor who has represented Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg and Kenneth Lonergan in the past.

If the courts allow Rosengart to represent Spears, it is likely that he will formally request that her conservatorship be terminated, thereby stripping her father of the control he has had over her for more than a decade.

Britney Spears begged the court to grant her freedom

Britney Spears’ June court appearance sent shockwaves across the world, marking the first time she had spoken publicly and in detail about the controversial legal arrangement.

Fans behind the “Free Britney” movement had long suspected that the singer was unhappy and that she was being mistreated under the conservatorship – however, Spears remained quiet on her true feelings for years.

That silence was shattered during her June court appearance, which saw her tell a judge that her conservatorship is “abusive”.

“I want to end the conservatorship without having to be evaluated. I want to petition to end the conservatorship,” an audibly angry Spears said.

“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive. There are thousands of abusive conservatorships.

“It is my wish and dream for all of this to end. I want my life back.”

The singer confessed that she was “traumatised” and “depressed”, adding that she had deliberately projected a happy image to the world when she was actually “not happy”.

Spears’ comments enlivened the “Free Britney” movement, with fans across the world throwing their support behind the singer’s bid for freedom.

Following her court testimony, Britney Spears’ manager Larry Rudolph resigned, saying his understanding is that she plans to “officially retire” from her music career.