Celebrities

'The Laws Need To Change': Britney Spears Testifies Against Conservatorship

The pop star's moving testimony casts light on the potential for abuse in court-ordered conservatorships.

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"I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive," Britney Spears told a Los Angeles probate court this week. In her 23-minute testimony, the pop star finally got the chance to speak out about the conservatorship—a process by which an adult is deemed unfit to manage her personal and financial affairs and is assigned a court-appointed conservator—that she has been subjected to since 2008.

"I shouldn't be in a conservatorship if I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people—it makes no sense. The laws need to change," Spears said.

Conservatorship is a legal status given by a court when a person—usually elderly or severely mentally ill—is incapable of taking care of herself. In such cases, a court will designate a family member or a professional who can act on that person's behalf. While this status is meant to protect conservatees from potential abuse, it can actually harm them.

Spears—who alleged she has been forced by her conservators to work, take drugs, and use birth control against her will—may be the most notable case of conservatorship abuse. Her situation spawned a #FreeBritney movement which includes a podcast and a New York Times documentary.

In the most moving part of her Wednesday testimony, Spears told the court about what her formerly estranged father (who is in charge of her conservatorship) did when she refused to keep performing in Las Vegas and announced an "indefinite work hiatus." 

"Three days later, after I said no to Vegas, my therapist sat me down in a room and said he had a million phone calls about how I was not cooperating in rehearsals, and I haven't been taking my medication," Spears told the court. "All this was false. He immediately, the next day, put me on lithium out of nowhere. He took me off my normal meds I've been on for five years. And lithium is a very, very strong and completely different medication compared to what I was used to. You can go mentally impaired if you take too much, if you stay on it longer than five months. But he put me on that and I felt drunk."

After that, her father sent her to a house in Beverly Hills where she was forced to work and was constantly monitored, according to Spears.

She also alleged that her conservators wouldn't let her remove her IUD because they didn't want her having any more children. 

And what does Spears want? "I'd like for my boyfriend to be able to drive me in his car," she told the court. "And I want to meet with a therapist once a week, not twice a week. And I want him to come to my home. Because I actually know I do need a little therapy….I want to be able to get married and have a baby."

Conservatorships like Spears' have drawn quite a bit of controversy, particularly with elder advocates. "In California, most financial elder abuse claims are addressed by probate courts in the context of conservatorships," lawyer Kenneth Heisz writes in an article for the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

One of the main difficulties in fighting conservatorship abuse is a lack of data. Conservatorships are overseen by local courts, and the majority of states—including California, where Spears lives—don't keep track of how many conservatorships are ongoing. 

A 2005 Los Angeles Times investigation reviewed 2,400 cases in California, which the paper claims includes every case being handled by a professional conservatorship in Southern California between 1997–2003. The Times also reported that more than 500 of the conservatee cases they investigated "were entrusted to for-profit conservators without their consent at hearings that lasted minutes." 

These legal arrangements can be necessary. Ideally, conservatorships aim to preserve the independence of the conservatee as much as possible. But they can also put already vulnerable people in even more vulnerable positions to be financially and personally exploited, as the Spears case seems to exemplify.

Sometimes, the exploitation can be subtle. "Commonly, conservators run up their fees in ways large and small, eating into seniors' assets," the Times reported. "A conservator charged a Los Angeles woman $170 in fees to have an employee bring her $49.93 worth of groceries. Palm Springs widow Mary Edelman kept paying from beyond the grave: Her conservators charged her estate $1,700 for attending her burial." 

In order to solve this problem, experts suggest creating a comprehensive online information system to keep track of and oversee conservatorship cases.

They also recommend taking more significant measures to guarantee the conservatee's rights to due process. Conservatees and their families should know about and have access to the legal means to end conservatorships.

This issue figured in Spears' case as well, as she claimed in her testimony that she didn't know she could petition to end the conservatorship. "I'm sorry for my ignorance, but I honestly didn't know that," she told the court.

With the growing public outcry over Spears' situation and her moving testimony, it seems there is at least hope that she will get her life back. But there are still thousands of people who could have control over their lives taken away from them by a court through the conservatorship system. 

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  1. Naming her father conservator was a bad idea in the first place.

    1. Naming her father conservator was a bad idea in the first place.

      As was getting in to the pop business to begin with. The poor woman has probably been getting abused in some fashion for well over 20 years now.

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  2. “LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE!”

  3. No one, including the author of this piece, knows where the truth lies with regard to Britney Spears’ situation. I would take her testimony with a boulder of salt.

    1. When in doubt, the most sensible course of action is always to strip grown adults of their rights and property and forcibly sterilize them. Get off your fucking knees you fucking bootlicking fascist faggot sack of shit.

      1. “Get off your fucking knees”

        Hey! That’s my line!

        1. ya I’m all “Becca is a Abattoir sock?”

    2. How about the people controlling every facet of her life? Should they be assumed to be truthful? They have a clear, vested interest in keeping the status quo.

    3. Self-ownership puts the burden of proof on those who would enslave somebody. Was she an imminently unavoidable threat to anybody but herself, oh, and to her father’s siphoning of her bank account?

      Fuck off, slaver.

  4. We have a sick tired old man who clearly has dementia and reason koch promoted him to be the next president. No writer here spoke up about that situation.

    1. I think Kammy’s coronation will be coming sooner than the 2 years they were hoping for.

    2. spoke up? they fucking red carpeted it.

  5. What I don’t understand is how the conservators can say Spears is competent to work in Las Vegas, perform daily and earn large amounts of money, but not run any other aspect of her life. Aren’t conservatorships for people who put their underwear on their heads?

    1. Because she might fuck up her daddy’s gravy train if she could just up and buy things with the 140 million dollars she earned last year.

      1. I keep hearing how she’s worth around $60 million, yet she pulls down money like that. What’s the conservator’s net worth?

    2. Evidently not, which seems to be part of the problem here.

    3. “…Aren’t conservatorships for people who put their underwear on their heads?…”

      One of the claims has to do with “substance abuse”.
      If that’s the issue, every rocker in the world would be under a conservator.

      1. Putting on a performance on stage has never had much in common with life off-stage. I’ve never followed this closely, but at one time Britney Spears appeared to be far more unstable and self-destructive than those rockers that merely demolished their instruments and hotel rooms, and even most of those that died of ODs. Probably most of what I remember was from Planet Hollywood(?) playing continuously in the break room at a temporary job in 2007-2008; it seemed like they didn’t need much besides Britney gossip to fill their all-day schedule. She could still give a performance, if delivered to the stage in the right state, but I could see someone concluding that the only way she was going to continue performing – or living outside an institution – was to handle her pretty much the way a performing dog is handled.

        But it seems quite suspicious if there’s been no change in her mental status in over 12 years. Patients may get better or worse in therapy, but if there was really no major change, that sounds like a quite successful “treatment” that did not have her good in mind…

  6. Ghost of K-Fed rides on …

  7. Meanwhile they do nothing about the crazy homeless guy taking a dump in your yard.

    1. He’s not worth millions of dollars. Nobody wants to be his conservator.

  8. Even more evidence that the cra cra bitch be cra cra.

    1. Is that sarcasm or douche-baggery?

  9. On the other end of the scale, we have tens of thousands of people in Los Angeles living on the streets with serious mental illness, drug addiction, or both, and no one seems to legally be able to help them. They have the human right to live in rat-infested filth, kill themselves with drugs, be so drugged up that they walk into traffic, be burned alive in their tents when they don’t pay protection fees, and steal anything under $950 to fuel their drug habits. Why is every aspect of Spears’s life controlled “for her own good”, but the homeless of Los Angeles can’t be touched because of their rights?

    1. Unicorn Abattoir answered that a few lines above. “[The homeless guy taking a dump in your yard is] not worth millions of dollars. Nobody wants to be his conservator.”

      We used to have state hospitals for these people, but liberals thought their rights were violated, and conservatives didn’t like spending the money to house, feed, and treat them. So they’re dumped on the streets, theoretically with a supply of the drugs needed to control their condition – but no one is making them take those drugs, and often getting a resupply requires traveling across town, which is more than many of them can handle. And instead of the costs and rights violations of locking them into a minimum-security mental ward, we frequently pay more for jailing them, in conditions where treatment is impossible.

  10. Ms. Spears essentially went into court and said, “You want a piece of me!?!”

  11. IMO the whole thing depends on if she’s bipolar. If she is and it is not well controlled, well, for someone as wealthy and as well known as her, a conservator-ship is certainly going to be on the table.

    Someone in a +3 manic state has pretty marginal judgement by any standard, +4 is extremely bad judgment trouble, +5 is bat shit crazy: they believe they can do **anything** and believe there **never** will be any consequences. It’s a tragic condition.

  12. Conservatorships routinely are abused by anyone wanting to strip another person of their financial rights, provided that the victim has any finances to strip. Low-income predators get financial guardianships over frail old people’s Social Security. Middle-income predators go for trust funds. All it takes is a perjurious attorney with a court clerk in the family, and someone to impersonate the victim in court. Netflix and one major TV owner, now in dementia, receive funds from an intellectual property gained in precisely that way.

    Let Spears make her own mistakes. Adults do. Her father can go live on his own income, as adults also do. If he can’t, he’s incompetent.

    1. No the county does this too. They just wait for someone to file elder abuse against someone in an effort to get the elderly’s money, then the county swoops in and takes it all for themselves. The lawyers on both sides are in on it – and there’s tons of them needed too. Then when the elderly has died, they will continue to raid the estate for years as they keep paying themselves for tallying up the final bill. It’s a racket. It happens throughout the us and there is zero due process. They don’t even file any charges against anyone – they just take control and pay themselves. Nothing you can do but pay your dirty attorney(s) who “try” to help, but they’re just racking it up for themselves too. The last thing they want is for the money to run out by winning.

  13. My father’s admonition never to take from someone all that they have seems apropos here. Is Britney really batguano crazy, or does she just have extremely bad judgment and is therefore likely to make mistakes of the first or second order, or does dad have her hooked to and pulling a gravy train that he gets to wet his beak from? Regardless of which of the above, or which combination of the above is true, some people held in her situation will eventually find a way to execute a right of private action against their tormentor. And then, the pronouncements of her former tormentor regarding her lack of mental capacity will be used in her defense of decreased mental capacity. Almost seems like I can see ol’ Karma, peeping around the corner and grinning at the both of them.

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