Oops She Did It Again: Britney Spears’ Continued Court Challenges to Remove Her Father as Conservator May Have Potential Lasting Legal Ramifications

By: Claire Kretschmer

Britney Spears, a pop music icon, and a person of interest to the public for almost the entirety of her career, is back in the news in an unexpected way.[1] Spears is once again taking to the courts to attempt to remove her father, James ‘Jamie’ Spears, as her conservator.[2] Conservatorship law, a relatively unknown area of law, is now in the spotlight as Ms. Spears fights for her independence.[3]

Spears, who rose to prominence in the late 1990s, has continuously been the subject of widespread speculation throughout her career.[4] Following a string of tumultuous incidents in the late 2000s, including several trips to rehab and psychiatric hospitals, Jamie Spears petitioned for an emergency temporary conservatorship over Spears.[5] The Los Angeles County Superior Court approved the conservatorship, giving Jamie oversight of Spears’ estate and health, which has surprisingly still in effect today.[6] While the exact details of Spears’ conservatorship are not available to the public, it is known that Jamie oversees both Spears’ person and her estate, which includes decisions ranging from business negotiations to how Spears spends her money.[7] While it is clear from the public interest in the ‘#FreeBritney’ movement that the public finds the continued conservatorship odd, legal precedent also suggests this situation is unusual.[8]

Under California law, a conservatorship is when a judge appoints an individual to care for an adult who is unable to care for herself and her finances.[9] Typically, conservatorships are utilized for developmentally disabled adults or elderly people who may be vulnerable to manipulation or financial abuse.[10] It is commonly used for impaired adults such as developmentally disabled individuals or older people with mental impairments.[11] Spears’ case is considered abnormal because of her young age and seeming ability to handle her affairs.[12] Further, a conservatorship is intended as an absolute last resort.[13]

Spears’ situation is providing a spotlight on conservatorships.[14] Unfortunately, conservatorships can be, and often are, taken advantage of.[15] The Los Angeles County Superior Court’s decision regarding Spears’ conservatorship will likely spark a new precedent for California conservatorship law.[16] If the court allows the conservatorship to continue, it may be broadening the standard an individual must meet to be granted conservatorship.[17]


[1] See Chloe Melas, Britney Spears’ Attorney Files Petition to Remove Her Father From Overseeing her Medical Decisions, CNN (Mar. 24, 2021), https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/24/entertainment/britney-spears-conservatorship-medical-decisions/index.html.

[2] Minyvonne Burke & Diana Dasrath, Britney Spears’ Attorney Files Petition Requesting Father Jamie Spears Resign as Conservator, NBC News (Mar. 25, 2021), https://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/pop-culture-news/britney-spears-attorneys-file-petition-requesting-father-jamie-spears-resign-n1262037.

[3] See Melody Gutierrez, #FreeBritney Movement Prompts Lawmakers to Consider Changing Conservatorship Laws, LA Times (Mar. 26, 2021), https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-03-26/freebritney-movement-prompts-conservatorships-law-debate.

[4] Julia Jacobs, What is Actually Happening With Britney Spears?, N.Y. Times (May 17, 2019), https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/arts/music/britney-spears-conservatorship-mental-health.html.

[5] See Joe Coscarelli, Britney Spears Conservatorship to Remain as is Until 2021, N.Y. Times (Aug. 21, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/arts/music/britney-spears-conservatorship.html.

[6] See id.

[7] See id.

[8] See Melas, supra note 1 (“Celebrities and supporters have advocated for Spears on social media with the hashtag #FreeBritney.”); Coscarelli supra note 5 (describing a conservatorship as a “legal arrangement . . . typically used for the old, infirm or disabled”).

[9] Conservatorships of Adults, The Superior Court of California https://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/divisions/probate/conservatorships-of-adults.

[10] See id.

[11] See id.

[12] Sarah Wentz, Britney Spears: Legal Expert Explains Why Pop Star’s Unprecedented Conservatorship Case is Highly Abnormal, Variety (Apr. 7, 2021), https://variety.com/2021/music/news/britney-spears-conservatorship-case-legal-questions-attorney-1234922934/.

[13] See id.

[14] See Gutierrez, supra note 2.

[15] See Rebekah Diller & Leslie Salzman, It’s Not Just Britney Spears – Over a Million Adults in the US are Under Legal Conservatorships, and They Often Fail to Protect Those They are Meant to Help, Business Insider (Mar. 13, 2021), https://www.businessinsider.com/britney-spears-documentary-legal-conservatorships-guardianship-fail-to-protect-2021-3.

[16] See id.

[17] See id.

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