A lawyer for Britney Spears has asked the court to accelerate the hearing on her request to remove her father, or to immediately suspend him, from the conservatorship that has controlled the 39-year-old singer’s life and finances for the last 13 years.
The petition filed in Los Angeles probate court Thursday comes a week after Spears’ lawyer filed to remove her father, James Spears, from the arrangement. The court is set to hear the request September 29, but the new filing seeks to have him removed before then, noting that “every day that passes is another day of avoidable harm and prejudice to Ms. Spears and the Estate.”
The request continues an aggressive new approach since Britney Spears’ court testimony in June, when she called the arrangement “abusive” and said her father and anyone else involved in the conservatorship should go to jail. The filing was made by Spears’ new lawyer, Mathew S. Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor who was approved last month to replace the court-appointed lawyer who began representing the singer in 2008, when the conservatorship was granted amid concerns over Spears’ mental health and potential substance use.
The request to remove Spears’ father cited a section of the probate code that gives the court broad discretion to remove a conservator if it is in “the best interests” of the conservatee and does not require there to be any finding of fault with a conservator.
Spears’ medical team; her mother; and her current personal conservator, Jodi Montgomery, have said that the removal of Spears’ father is in Spears’ best interest, according to court papers.
Control over finances
Since 2008, James Spears has overseen his daughter’s finances, sometimes with a co-conservator. He had also largely controlled her personal and medical care until Montgomery took over in September 2019 on an ongoing temporary basis.
The petition argues that James Spears’ presence as conservator is harming Britney Spears financially, as the singer declared she would not work again until he is gone. In the filing, Britney Spears’ lawyer also criticised her father’s management of the singer’s nearly $60 million estate.
Lawyers for James Spears did not immediately respond to a request for comment but have previously defended his care of and concern for his daughter.
He is paid $16,000 a month as conservator, which the petition claimed is $2,000 more a month than he has allotted to Spears. He also receives $2,000 a month for office expenses.
His lawyers are also paid by Britney Spears. The filing notes that one set of his lawyers recently billed her estate more than $1.3 million for roughly eight months of work, including more than $540,000 for “media matters” spent defending the conservatorship. The filing says that if he chooses to fight his removal, he could be liable for attorneys’ fees.
In the filing, Rosengart said Spears’ father had overpaid her former business manager, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment, more than $300,000 in 2019. Tri Star had been making a 5% commission off Spears’ work but asked for a $500,000 payment from the estate as a “floor” when Spears went on an indefinite work hiatus. The filing reports Spears’ father agreed to the payment rather than negotiate a more favourable agreement.
In court last year, a lawyer for James Spears called the fees reasonable.
The filing says that, even as Spears’ father spent her money on himself and others, he opposed her request in late July to take a brief vacation to Hawaii as “unnecessary.” The filing says Spears’ law firm ultimately obtained approval for the trip.
Rosengart has requested that a certified public accountant in California, Jason Rubin, be named to replace Spears’ father.
“A conservatorship should be a last resort, designed to benefit the conservatee rather than a mechanism designed to serve as a tool for the enrichment of third parties,” the filing stated. “It is apparent that this conservatorship has allowed would-be influencers to take control of the Estate and exploit Ms. Spears, often for their own benefit. The suspension and ultimate removal of Mr. Spears will be the first step towards rectifying that abuse.”