LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California has joined with 25 civil rights and disability rights groups in filing a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Britney Spears' right to pick her own attorney for her conservatorship proceedings.
The amicus court papers submitted Monday also urged Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny to ensure the 39-year-old singer has access to assistance and tools to make the choice.
Spears has been represented by court-appointed attorney Samuel Ingham III for the 13-year duration of her conservatorship, although Ingham recently announced his intention to step down once a replacement is selected.
In a June 23 statement to the judge, Spears said she has been constantly watched, forced to use birth control via an IUD and confined against her will. She also told the court that she wishes to choose her own attorney. In the brief, the ACLU and disability rights organizations argue that the choosing one's own lawyer is a key Sixth Amendment right and that people under a conservatorship should not be an exception.
“Britney Spears has said that she wants to pick her own lawyer and the court should respect that wish,” said Zoe Brennan-Krohn, staff attorney with the ACLU's Disability Rights Project. “The court should ensure Spears has access to the tools she needs to make that choice meaningfully and to hire someone she trusts to advocate for her stated goal: to get out of her conservatorship.”
In a separate document also filed Monday, the ACLU and the ACLU SoCal offered to provide supported decision-making assistance to help Spears select a replacement lawyer, if she wishes. Supported decision-making is a widely recognized approach to ensuring people with and without disabilities can make their own informed choices, typically with assistance from trusted advisors, mentors, friends or professionals.
“Britney's superstardom and wealth make this an atypical case, but she has described serious infringements on her civil liberties and dignity that are all too typical for people living under conservatorships and guardianships,” said Amanda Goad, director of the LGBTQ, Gender & Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU SoCal.
“It's not just about Britney,” Goad said. “We hope that offering supported decision-making to Britney Spears can serve as a model in other cases because all people living with disabilities or under conservatorship deserve an opportunity to make their own informed choices.”