LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Three weeks after Britney Spears' impassioned court appearance demanding an end to the conservatorship that has governed her life for 13 years, a Los Angeles judge today approved the singer's request to hire her own attorney rather than have one appointed for her.
The decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny, still subject to a formal order, comes following the resignation of Spears' longtime court-appointed counsel, Samuel D. Ingham III. Ingham submitted court papers after last month's court hearing in which the singer blasted her family and virtually everyone involved in the conservatorship, saying she has been subjected to conditions akin to slavery and sex-trafficking.
Ingham's resignation was accepted by Penny today along with that of the law firm of Loeb & Loeb and the Bessemer Trust, the former co-conservator of the Spears estate.
Spears spoke to the court via telephone today, initially saying she wanted the courtroom cleared, but changed her mind and said she would make her statement public. She again lashed out at her father, Jamie Spears, who is now the sole conservator of his daughter's estate. Britney Spears has repeatedly asked for his removal from the conservatorship.
“I'm here to get rid of my dad and charge him for conservatorship abuse,” the singer said.
Spears repeated her desire that her conservatorship be ended, but only if she does not have to be mentally evaluated. She also reiterated that she has been forced to do to many things against her will, made to feel like she is “crazy,” and that she wants to regain control of her life.
Spears said she wants to retain Jodi Montgomery as her personal conservator, saying she believes it will be beneficial to have her in the position for now. Montgomery is currently serving in that capacity in a temporary role.
With Penny's expected final approval, Spears will soon be represented by former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart.
Rosengart, 58, is a partner at the law firm Greenberg Traurig. He vowed to file a petition in the near future to end the conservatorship, but also challenged Jamie Spears to step down from his position as co-conservator of his daughter's estate, saying it's the best way the elder Spears can show the adoration he claims to have for his daughter.
“If he loves his daughter, it's time to step aside,” Rosengart told the judge.
Spears has been under a conservatorship since 2008, when she exhibited bizarre behavior that included shaving her hair off. But Rosengart said conservatorship has gone on long enough.
Questioned by Penny about his firm's experience in probate law, Rosengart said a team from his office was involved in a six-month trial involving the removal of the trustees in the probate case involving the late Herbalife founder Mark Hughes. Born in La Mirada, Hughes died at age 44 in Malibu in May 2000 of a toxic combination of alcohol and Doxepin, an antidepressant he was taking to help him sleep.
Rosengart's call for Jamie Spears' resignation did not sit well with his lawyer, Vivian Thoreen, who repeated her argument she made in a court filing that the judge should investigate his daughter's allegations of abusive treatment by those involved in the conservatorship.
Thoreen said Spears' assertions that her father is responsible for all the bad things that have happened to her is “the furthest thing from the truth.”
“He has been there 24/7 for the past 13 years,” said Thoreen, who added that his daughter has been given two opportunities to address the court that no one else has enjoyed.
Thoreen said all of the attorneys need to work together to find the best solutions to benefit the singer, a point the judge herself made at the close of the hearing. Further proceedings are scheduled Monday and on Sept. 29.
Meanwhile, the judge awarded $50,000 to Montgomery to compensate her for steps taken to protect herself in the wake of Spears' June 23 comments, when she lashed out at the conservatorship and most of the people involved with it.
Montgomery maintained in her court papers that she has has seen a “marked increase” in threats directed at her on social media and through text messages, phone calls and emails.
“Many of the messages threaten violence and even death against petitioner (Montgomery),” according to the court papers. “Security has determined the security risk to be serious enough to recommend that 24/7 physical security be provided to (Montgomery) on an interim basis in order to protect her from harm.”
According to the papers, the “physical security” has been in place at Montgomery's home since June 30, with Spears' estate “conditionally” covering the cost pending court approval. The documents state that the price for the security “is cost-prohibitive for (Montgomery) to personally bear.”
The long-lingering conservatorship has prompted Spears' fans to launch an online FreeBritney movement, calling for an end to the oversight of the 39-year-old singer's life and affairs. Organizers of the movement held a colorful rally outside the downtown courthouse while the hearing was held.