Britney Spears' father suspended as her conservator

By Chloe Melas, Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 0141 GMT (0941 HKT) September 30, 2021
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7:43 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

Britney Spears' attorney calls her father "a cruel, toxic, abusive man" in contentious hearing

From CNN’s Chloe Melas and Cheri Mossburg

A court sketch shows Britney Spears’ attorney Mathew Rosengart, left, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny at a hearing in Los Angeles on September 29.
A court sketch shows Britney Spears’ attorney Mathew Rosengart, left, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny at a hearing in Los Angeles on September 29. (Bill Robles)

In the contentious court hearing, Britney Spears’ attorney Mathew Rosengart called her father, Jamie Spears, “a cruel, toxic, abusive man.”

“She wants him out of her life today rather than a lingering and toxic presence,” Rosengart said. “Britney deserves to wake up tomorrow without her father as her conservator.”

Judge Brenda Penny appointed John Zabel as the temporary conservator of Britney’s estate.

Another hearing will be set, possibly before the end of the year, to consider terminating the conservatorship altogether.

Rosengart also cited behavior he called "unfathomable," based on reporting by the New York Times during today's hearing.

Rosengart accused Britney Spears' father of placing a recording device in her bedroom, allegations an attorney for the elder Spears did not directly respond to when previously contacted by CNN.

“We learned Mr. Spears did something unfathomable. He instructed [a] security team, paid for by my client, to place a listening device in Britney’s bedroom.”

In response in court on Wednesday, Vivian Thoreen, Jamie Spears’ lawyer, said, “It’s not evidence, it’s rhetoric.”

6:33 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

There will be another hearing to consider ending Spears' conservatorship altogether

From CNN’s Chloe Melas and Cheri Mossburg

A Los Angeles judge moments ago suspended the legal oversight of Britney Spears' father, designating a replacement selected by the singer and her attorney.

The move suspends Jamie Spears as his daughter's conservator, but it does not end the conservatorship.

Another hearing will be set — possibly before the end of the year — to consider terminating the conservatorship altogether. The exact date is not known.

Britney Spears made a tearful plea in court in June asking for the arrangement to end after 13 years, and, specifically, for her father to be removed from his role managing her estate.

6:23 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

Jamie Spears suspended as Britney Spears' conservator

From CNN’s Chloe Melas

Britney Spears will no longer have her father managing her estate after he was suspended from the role as conservator of the singer’s estate.

A Los Angeles judge on Wednesday suspended the legal oversight of her father, Jamie Spears, designating a replacement selected by the singer and her attorney.

Certified public accountant John Zabel has been appointed as temporary conservator of her estate.

Britney Spears did not call into the hearing.

Today's hearing is currently on a break. Afterward, both sides will discuss when there will be another court hearing.

The conservatorship of Britney’s person, managed by Jodi Montgomery, remains in place.

6:08 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

"Britney vs. Spears" director says she hoped to solve one of the most "mysterious legal mysteries of our time"

Erin Lee Carr, "Britney vs. Spears" documentary filmmaker, speaks with CNN on September 29.
Erin Lee Carr, "Britney vs. Spears" documentary filmmaker, speaks with CNN on September 29. CNN

"Britney vs. Spears" documentary filmmaker Erin Lee Carr deliberately chose not to include images of Britney Spears at the height of her mental struggles in the film because she hoped to "move the story forward," she told CNN this afternoon.

"Britney vs. Spears" premiered on Netflix Tuesday.

"It was in empathy for people with mental struggles, but it also was that I wanted to move the story forward. I think when I approached Netflix with this story, it wasn't about the parade of images and videos we have previously seen, but what is going on inside the conservatorship and me, two and a half years ago, maybe I can help crack one of the most mysterious legal mysteries of our time," Carr said. "It was incredibly naive, but if I was going do it, I was going to do it in a forward-facing way. "

"Britney vs. Spears" is one of a handful of documentaries to be released on the singer, including Hulu's "Controlling Britney Spears" and CNN's "Toxic: Britney Spears’ Battle for Freedom."

5:33 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

Britney Spears fans rally around the world ahead of conservatorship hearing

Scores of Britney Spears fans gathered in Los Angeles and London this afternoon ahead of a hearing where a judge will determine whether the 13-year conservatorship can be terminated.

Fans were seen carrying homemade signs featuring photos of the singer and #FreeBritney, the viral hashtag used to rally support for Spears.

See some of the scenes from Los Angeles and London:

Britney Spears supporters attend a rally in London on September 29.
Britney Spears supporters attend a rally in London on September 29. (Kate Green/Getty Images)

Britney Spears supporters demonstrate outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on September 29.
Britney Spears supporters demonstrate outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on September 29. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

A Britney Spears supporter holds a sign outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on September 29.
A Britney Spears supporter holds a sign outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on September 29. (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Signs are placed on the ground as Britney Spears supporters demonstrate in front of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on September 29.
Signs are placed on the ground as Britney Spears supporters demonstrate in front of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on September 29. (Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

5:03 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

What we know about today's hearing

From CNN's Chloe Melas

The fight over Britney Spears' 13-year conservatorship returns to court in Los Angeles today.

Judge Brenda Penny is expected to consider several petitions filed since the last hearing in the case on July 14.

Jamie Spears, the singer's father, has served as her conservator since 2008. Earlier this month, he petitioned to terminate the conservatorship. His filing followed two powerful days of testimony from the pop star this summer in which she detailed numerous personal restrictions she has lived with under the arrangement she described as "f---ing cruelty."

"I just want my life back. It's been 13 years and it's enough," Spears said in June.
8:01 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

The judge has a "duty" to remove Jamie Spears from the conservatorship, #FreeBritney activist says

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Judge Brenda Penny has a "duty" to remove Britney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, from his role in his daughter's conservatorship, a leading activist in the #FreeBritney movement told CNN today.

"At the very least, it is Judge Penny's duty, as an honorable judge, to remove Jamie Spears from this arrangement," said Leanne Simmons, speaking to CNN outside the courthouse while awaiting the judge's decision today.

Simmons added that even if the judge grants Jamie Spears' own request to be removed from the role, it would represent just one step towards the goal of securing freedom for the 39-year-old singer.

"The end goal is to free Britney entirely from this conservatorship which is fraudulent and unjust, but getting rid of her father is an excellent first step," said Simmons.

Simmons, who helped organize a #FreeBritney rally outside the courthouse, said she believes the movement she's helped create now transcends Britney Spears and extends to many women trapped in similar situations.

"This is a social justice movement," she said. "This is much bigger than Britney at this moment... We're going to get louder, keep screaming and won't give up until we effect change."

4:19 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

Britney Spears' views on her conservatorship, in her own words

Britney Spears attends the MTV Video Music Awards in New York on August 28, 2016.
Britney Spears attends the MTV Video Music Awards in New York on August 28, 2016. (Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage/Getty Images)

Another hearing in Britney Spears' longstanding conservatorship is set to begin soon in Los Angeles. It's the latest in a series regarding the case — and it's expected the judge will take up her father's request to terminate the conservatorship.

Britney Spears herself appeared remotely in court in June to plead her case to have the conservatorship lifted.

As we wait for today's hearing to kick off, here's a recap of the singers' emotional June testimony:

  • A life of trauma: "I've told the world I'm happy and OK," Spears said in court about the arrangement that has been in place for nearly 13 years. "I'm traumatized. I'm not happy, I can't sleep."
  • On speaking out: Spears requested to address Judge Brenda Penny to speak out about the arrangement. Spears said, "A lot has happened since two years ago...the last time I was in court," she began. "I haven't been back to court in a long time because I don't think I was heard on any level when I came to court the last time." Spears went on to say that she felt she had been forced to go on tour in 2018 and perform in Las Vegas during her residency.
  • On medication: Spears said that she was put on lithium against her will. "I felt drunk. I couldn't even stick up for myself. I couldn't even have a conversation with my mom or dad about anything. I told them I was scared and they had six different nurses come to my home to monitor me while I was on this medication that I didn't want to be on to begin with." Lithium is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, which often causes episodes of depression and mania, a feeling of uncontrolled irritability or excitement. It can also be used to treat depression. In court today, Spears did not mention any possible medical condition.
  • On starting a family: Spears also said that she wants to start a family with her boyfriend (and now fiancé) Sam Asghari. "I was told right now in the conservatorship, I'm not able to get married or have a baby," Spears said. "I have an I[U]D inside of myself right now so I don't get pregnant. I wanted to take the IUD out so I could start trying to have another baby, but this so-called team won't let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don't want me to have children, any more children."
  • Pleading with the court: Spears pleaded with a judge to take her concerns seriously at a court hearing regarding her court-ordered conservatorship. "The last time I spoke to you...made me feel like I was dead, like I didn't matter, like nothing had been done to me, like you thought I was lying," Spears said. "I want to be heard. I'm telling you this again so that maybe you understand the depth and degree and the damage...I want and deserve changes going forward."
4:32 p.m. ET, September 29, 2021

Britney Spears' father petitioned to end her conservatorship. Here's what we know.

From CNN's Chloe Melas

Jamie Spears, Britney Spears' father, leaves the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on October 24, 2012.
Jamie Spears, Britney Spears' father, leaves the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles on October 24, 2012. (Nick Ut/AP)

In a court filing obtained by CNN in early September, Britney Spears' father and the conservator of her estate, Jamie Spears, cited his daughter's pleas at two separate court hearings over the summer in his request to terminate the 13-year conservatorship.

"Recent events related to this conservatorship have called into question whether circumstances have changed to such an extent that grounds for establishment of a conservatorship may no longer exist," the filing states.

"Ms. Spears has told this Court that she wants control of her life back without the safety rails of a conservatorship. She wants to be able to make decisions regarding her own medical care, deciding when, where and how often to get therapy. She wants to control the money she has made from her career and spend it without supervision or oversight. She wants to be able to get married and have a baby, if she so chooses. In short, she wants to live her life as she chooses without the constraints of a conservator or court proceeding," the petition reads in part.

"As Mr. Spears has said again and again, all he wants is what is best for his daughter. If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance," the filing said.

Mathew Rosengart, attorney for Britney Spears, called Tuesday's development "vindication."

"This filing represents another legal victory for Britney Spears — a massive one — as well as vindication for Ms. Spears," Rosengart said in a statement to CNN. "It appears that Mr. Spears believes he can try to avoid accountability and justice, including sitting for a sworn deposition and answering other discovery under oath."

Rosengart added that Britney Spears will "continue to explore all options."

The elder Spears has served has conservator of his daughter's estate since it was established in 2009. He was also the conservator of her person, overseeing her health and medical issues until he stepped aside in 2019. That's when Jodi Montgomery was appointed the temporary conservator of Spears' person.

During a hearing in July, Britney Spears said that she wanted to press charges against her father for "conservatorship abuse" and called the arrangement "f---ing cruelty."

Jamie Spears stated in a previous court filing that he intends to step down as conservator.