Column: The Britney Spears controversy sheds new light on conservatorship


FILE – Britney Spears arrives at the 29th annual GLAAD Media Awards on April 12, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Spears has asked to address the court to talk about the conservatorship that controls her life and finances. A Los Angeles judge on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, set a June hearing to hear from Spears. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

Staff Editorial

Britney Spears addressed a Los Angeles probate court, asking that her 13-year, court-mandated conservatorship be ended without the requirement of passing a medical evaluation. It is the first time in almost a decade that Spears has spoken publicly about the conservatorship, which has been managed by her father since it was first enacted in 2008.Spears’ passionate, at times emotional address Wednesday to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny was the first time in 13 years she has spoken in open court on the conservatorship, which she called “abusive” and “stupid.” The conservatorship was put in place as Spears, hounded by paparazzi and media scrutiny while a new mother, underwent a very public mental health crisis in 2008.

Britney Spears’ powerful plea to a judge to end the conservatorship that has controlled her life since 2008 brought sympathy and outrage from fans, famous supporters and even casual observers who say she deserves independence.  Speaking to the court, she said, “I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. I just want my life back.”

But on Tuesday afternoon, The New York Times reported that it had obtained confidential court records that purport to show that Spears has opposed the conservatorship privately for years. The Times quoted a 2016 report from a court investigator assigned to Spears’ case, in which the investigator wrote that Spears told her that the conservatorship had “become an oppressive and controlling tool against her” and that she wanted the arrangement to end quickly.  As part of the conservatorship, Spears’ father Jamie was the controlling conservator for years, until last November when the financial aspects of Spears’ conservatorship—a $60 million estate—were untangled from her day to day activities. Moving forward, Jamie has been in control of Spears’ daily goings on, while Bessemer Trust controls her finances.

According to the Times, Spears told the court in 2019 that the conservatorship had forced her into a stay at a mental health facility, as well as into making public performances against her will. The article further reported that the conservatorship had dictated Spears’ friendships, her dating life and her spending habits, even preventing her from refinishing kitchen cabinets according to her taste.

As early as 2014, the article states, Spears wanted to consider removing her father from his prime role in the conservatorship, citing his reportedly heavy drinking.

Essentially, it controls all the major aspects of Spears’ life, including decisions regarding her financial, medical and personal well-being. The conservators also oversee visitation arrangements with her two teenage sons, who are under the full custody of her ex-husband, Kevin Federline.