In February 2008, Britney Spears was 26 years old, a new mother and one of the most talked about figures in culture. She was obviously going through a rough time and it was all playing out in the public. Her family decided to take action and her father Jamie Spears led the charge, eventually placing his daughter’s life into his control under a conservatorship.
On November 12, just weeks before the singer’s 40th birthday, this conservatorship was terminated by Judge Brenda Penny. Britney Spears’ reacted to the news on Instagram, posting crowd footage from those who made the journey to the courthouse to support her. In her caption she said “Good God I love my fans so much it’s crazy!!! I think I’m gonna cry the rest of the day !!!! Best day ever … praise the Lord … can I get an Amen???? #FreedBritney”
The conservatorship and the larger #FreeBritney movement was brought into the public spotlight earlier this year, most notably as the focus of three investigative documentaries (two of which are both attributed to the New York Times) and a deep dive article by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino. These media investigations brought to the forefront what many of Britney’s most devoted fans had been worried about for many years – the arrangement was not so much helping Britney, but instead controlling her life down to the smallest detail to pump out as much cash for the estate as possible.
In the courtroom, this was brought to light by Spear’s own chilling and moving testimony on June 23, the first time in many years that she had chosen to speak publicly about the arrangement. During her testimony she said “Basically this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life.” Amongst other shocking details she told the court that she had been forced to take lithium and was not allowed to get her IUD removed. She advocated for the arrangement to be brought to an end and expressed desire to charge those involved for abuse done to her.
In addition to this physical and mental abuse, it is obvious that the machine around the conservatorship was generating huge financial gains for all involved, except for the star of the show.
Months later, Judge Penny suspended her father from his role as conservator. This is something the singer had been asking for for years, and showed a turn in her favor after many years of not being heard. He had previously limited his role in 2019, stepping back from being conservator of her person, or making her life decisions. He had maintained his position as conservator of her estate, controlling the finances.
Jamie Spears was advocating for the termination of the conservatorship in that September hearing, but it seems likely that that was a strategy to protect himself from further investigation into the dealings of the conservatorship. Though the conservatorship has now ended, Britney’s new lawyer, Matthew Rosengart has made it clear that he still plans to pursue investigations into Jamie and the entities that helped him, mainly business management firm TriStar Sports and Entertainment Group.
The end of the conservatorship is not immediate, a care plan has been developed to guide Spears’ out of the arrangement and the accountant who has overseen the estate will remain in place for the coming months. Further court hearings are scheduled for December 8th and January 19th, 2022.
In addition to bringing attention to this specific situation, the #FreeBritney movement’s time in the media has brought to our attention serious flaws in the current framework of the conservatorship system overall. As explained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in tweets after the court decision was publicized, “Britney Spears’ uniquely public conservatorship case shows just how desperately we need to transform the system for the 1.3 million people with disabilities who are still subject to these invasive and dangerous arrangements. There are untold thousands of people in conservatorships and guardianships who want to regain their civil liberties and live their lives with autonomy and support. We need to make that a reality.”