The Conservatorship Legal Battle to #FreeBritney - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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The Conservatorship Legal Battle to #FreeBritney

The Conservatorship Legal Battle to #FreeBritney

The #FreeBritney movement has exploded with the release of Hulu and New York Times’ Framing Britney Spears on February 5, 2021. The movement, which began on social media, advocates for Britney Spears’ release from the grip of her conservatorship under her father, Jamie Spears.1 In the past decade, Britney Spears maintained her status as a pop superstar with a stint as an “X Factor” judge, a residency in Las Vegas and the release of new music.2 Many people wonder why such a capable young star still needs a guardian in the eyes of the law.3

Britney’s Conservatorship

In 2007, Britney suffered from a highly publicized mental breakdown–infamously attacking a member of the paparazzi and shaving her head.4 As a result, in 2008 Jamie was granted a permanent conservatorship granting him (and co-conservator, lawyer Andrew Wallet)5 control over Britney Spears’ finances, business decisions and general well-being including her medical decisions.6 According to Jamie Spears’ legal team, the conservatorship has returned Britney to “good health” and “revive[d] her career.”7 Regardless of whether the conservatorship has been financially effective, those on Britney’s side emphasize the emotional toll that a 13-year conservatorship can have.8

What Exactly is a Conservatorship?

Conservatorships, or guardianships, are created by probate courts.9 When a court determines that a person’s mental health is preventing that person from taking care of his or her basic needs, the court will appoint someone (the conservator–either an attorney, a trust or a family member) to take control of the conservatee and his or her finances.10 Conservatorships strip a person of their legal rights by subjecting them to obtain permission of the court to hire an attorney.11 Further, a conservatee has no standing to sue–that power rests with the conservator.12 Consequently, it is notoriously difficult for a conservatee to free themselves of a conservatorship completely. Further, Britney Spears’ case is unique in that she is a multi-millionaire and possesses an enormous estate.13 This raises questions as to whether Jamie Spear has Britney Spears’ best interests in mind, and whether she could be subject to “undue influence.”14

Will Anything Change Going Forward?

For now, Britney Spears has said she will not perform so long as her father remains conservator.15 According to Britney’s lawyer Samuel D. Ingham III, Britney’s main concern is the removal of her father as conservator and his replacement with a third party.16 Ingham has further alleged that Britney is “afraid” of Jamie.17 In November 2020, Judge Brenda Penny appointed Bessemer Trust to be added as Jamie’s co-conservator, and in February 2021, Jamie’s objections to Bessemer Trust’s appointment were overruled.18

Britney Spears’ legal team continues to push for the appointment of Bessemer Trust as sole conservator, stating that Britney would prefer to “work with a corporate fiduciary who can offer both a physical office and a team of independent financial professionals” rather than an individual stranger appointed by Jamie.19 As for #FreeBritney, the singer and her legal team wholeheartedly welcome the movement’s support.20


  1. See Britney Spears’ Conservatorship Can Be Both Legal and Quite Bad for Her. Many Are, NBC News (Nov. 14, 2020, 10:11 AM), https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/britney-spears-conservatorship-can-be-both-totally-legal-quite-bad-ncna1247750 [https://perma.cc/6Z2G-H68K].

  2. See Why Does Britney Spears Still Have a Conservator? Legal Expert Says Her Case File Suggests Answers, USA Today (Oct. 24, 2019, 9:53 AM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2019/10/24/britney-spears-why-does-she-still-need-conservator/2288009001/ [https://perma.cc/EC8A-NEEM].

  3. See id.

  4. See id.

  5. See id.

  6. Britney Spears Conservatorship, Explained, CBS News (Feb. 13, 2021, 7:08 AM), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/britney-spears-conservatorship-explained/

    [https://perma.cc/UM8K-MX4K].

  7. Id.

  8. Supra note 1.

  9. See id.

  10. See id.

  11. See id.

  12. See id.

  13. Britney Spears Hasn’t Fully Controlled Her Life for Years. Fans Insist it’s Time to #FreeBritney, Los Angeles Times (Sep. 18, 2019, 10:00 AM), https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-09-17/britney-spears-conservatorship-free-britney [https://perma.cc/2RDQ-2LD2].

  14. Id.

  15. Supra note 6.

  16. Judge Rules Against Britney Spears’ Father in Conservatorship Dispute, NPR.com (Feb. 11, 2021, 8:34 PM), https://www.npr.org/2021/02/11/967176455/judge-rules-against-britney-spears-father-in-conservatorship-dispute [https://perma.cc/NBG2-L3BH].

  17. Supra note 6.

  18. Supra note 16.

  19. The Britney Spears Conservatorship Situation, Fully Explained, Glamour.com (Feb. 12, 2021), https://www.glamour.com/story/the-britney-spears-conservatorship-situation-fully-explained [https://perma.cc/R98Z-NHCY]

  20. Id.

Alessandra Spada

Alessandra Spada is a second-year J.D. candidate at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal. She is also a member of Fordham's Moot Court Board and the Education/Policy Co-Chair of Fordham Law Advocates for Voter Rights. She holds a B.A. in History from Binghamton University.