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Britney Spears' Fight To End Conservatorship Continues With Hearing


A crowd has shut down a street near the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles. Many of those gathered are wearing pink, and they're waving flags and signs with one simple slogan - free Britney.




FADEL: That's because the pop star Britney Spears is inside that courthouse as we speak. She's hoping that a judge will remove her father, Jamie Spears, as the conservator of her estate. It's a case that's drawn widespread attention since the pop star went public about what the past 13 years of her life have been like under the conservatorship.

NPR's Andrew Limbong is here to fill us in on the latest. Hey, Andrew.


FADEL: So as of right now, what do we know about what's going on in that courtroom?

LIMBONG: Yeah, not much. So the hearing has started, and the press has gone into the room. We've got our correspondent in there, but they confiscate your phones before you go, so, you know, we don't know much yet. We don't - you know, we can't even confirm if Britney's there in person or joining virtually because, like, rules over communication over this case have actually been pretty strict ever since someone leaked that audio of Britney Spears talking to the court this past summer.

FADEL: OK. So while we wait for updates, remind us why she wants out of this conservatorship.

LIMBONG: Yeah. Going back to that big testimony from over the summer - right? - she described a pretty harrowing life. She talked about being forced to enter a mental facility against her will and having to take meds she didn't want to take. She mentioned that she wanted to have kids, but wasn't allowed to under the current conservatorship.

And, you know, she blamed a lot of people, the lawyers and managers and doctors involved. But she placed most of the blame on her father, who, again, is the conservator of her estate, which means he controls all of her money. And, you know, she said that she finds him intimidating and abusive, and he has undue influence over his (ph) life, and she wants him out.

I should say, you know, this case is bigger than just Britney. It has, like, pretty wide policy implications. Activists have been trying to reform how, like, conservatorships work for years, and this case really puts their arguments as to why into the spotlight.

FADEL: So what has Jamie Spears previously said about leaving the conservatorship?

LIMBONG: He said he'd be open to it, you know, through legal documents filed over the summer. But when you actually read those documents, his intentions aren't actually clear, right? He says he doesn't think it's in her best interest to leave, that he's just looking out for her. But he doesn't like that this fight is happening so publicly.

So while he, like, left the door open to leave, he used language like, when the timing was right - right? - or, like, when, you know, the exit can be done in an orderly fashion, and who knows how long that could take. The whole point of today's hearing, or, like, the main point of today's hearing, is that Britney wants him out, like, today, essentially.

FADEL: So could today mark the end of Britney's conservatorship?

LIMBONG: I mean, there is the slimmest of possibilities. Her judge - right? - Judge Brenda Penny could wave her wand and declare this to be the end of the conservatorship entirely. But it's not likely. Remember, there's, like, two conservators to think of - not just Jamie Spears, but there's also Jodi Montgomery, who is in charge of Britney Spears' health and well-being.

And from what we can tell from, like, court records, it appears that Britney does have a much better relationship with Jodi Montgomery than it does with her father. So, like, while the big overarching goal might be to end the conservatorship, it's unlikely that that'll happen today. And what's on the line is if Jamie will be suspended or not.

FADEL: NPR's Andrew Limbong, who has been updating us on the day in court for Britney Spears and this conservatorship.

Thank you so much.

LIMBONG: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.