Britney Spears granted permission to hire her own lawyer in conservatorship case
After 13 years, Britney Spears has finally been granted permission to hire her own lawyer in her conservatorship case.
The case returned to court Wednesday afternoon, three weeks after the pop star delivered her own explosive testimony for the first time. In that statement, she alleged exploitation, isolation, and other abuses by her conservators, expressed an unequivocal desire for the arrangement to be terminated, and told Judge Brenda Penny she'd like to choose her own counsel: "I haven't really had the opportunity by my own self to actually handpick my own lawyer by myself. And I would like to be able to do that."
In the aftermath of that headline-grabbing remote court appearance (the audio of which was publicly available to stream live), Spears' conservatorship saw some shifts, most notably that her court-appointed attorney, Sam Ingham, filed to step down from his role.
On Wednesday, Judge Penny approved Ingham's resignation as well as Spears' request to hire former federal prosecutor and celebrity attorney Mathew Rosengart, according to PEOPLE.
Ingham had represented Spears in the case since the conservatorship began in early 2008, at which time she was deemed mentally unfit to retain her own counsel. In her testimony last month, Spears said she had been previously unaware that she could petition to terminate the conservatorship.
In Ingham's resignation letter, which did not provide a reason for his request to be removed from the case, he noted that he would continue to serve in the role until the court appointed new counsel; the day after he submitted it, Britney's mother, Lynne Spears, filed for her daughter to be given the chance to hire her own attorney.
Joining the court by phone Wednesday, Britney Spears reportedly broke down in tears. According to CNN, she told Judge Penny, "I would like to charge my father with conservatorship abuse," and said of the conservatorship, "if this is not abuse, I don't know what is."
Spears has repeatedly expressed a desire that her father, Jamie Spears, not wield such power over her life. In her June testimony, she said he "loved the control to hurt his own daughter, 100,000 percent."
Jamie has been Britney's primary conservator since the arrangement's inception. He served as sole conservator of her person until 2019, at which time he was temporarily replaced by Britney's care manager Jodi Montgomery, who has held the position since then; earlier this year, Ingham filed a request on the singer's behalf that Montgomery be permanently installed in the role. Jamie has been co-conservator of his daughter's estate for the duration of the conservatorship, at first alongside attorney Andrew Wallet, who stepped down in 2019 and was replaced late last year by wealth management firm Bessemer Trust. The week after Spears' testimony, Bessemer Trust requested, and was granted, its removal as conservator. The resignation filing stated that the company "has heard the Conservatee and respects her wishes."
Live audio of Wednesday's hearing was not made available, as Los Angeles County courthouses have now lifted their social distancing guidelines; the court system's press release announcing the change in rules and end to its Remote Audio Attendance Program noted that "widespread breaches by the public in a recent court proceeding highlighted the need to return to in-person, open courtroom proceedings."
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