Britney Spears’ Conservatorship Brought Back to Court Amid Recent #FreeBritney Movement


Thanks to the support of the #FreeBritney movement, the media has become more sympathetic to Spears, both in terms of her legal situation and her experience with mental health issues. (Courtesy of Flickr)

In the summer of 2020, #FreeBritney gained momentum after various TikTok videos exposed the cruel and unusual legal situation of Britney Spears’ conservatorship. These fan-made videos brought attention to how the global superstar has lost access to many basic human rights. #FreeBritney revealed to fans around the world that Spears currently has no control over her finances, career plans or personal endeavours. What started out as a TikTok conspiracy erupted into a movement seeking to grant the pop star freedom from her 12-year long conservatorship under her father, Jamie Spears. 

According to The Judicial Branch of California, a conservatorship is a court case where a person or organization is appointed to care for a conservatee, someone who does not have the capacity to care for themselves or to manage their finances. A conservatorship is typically appointed to elderly individuals who cannot take care of themselves or their finances. Since a conservatorship is not designed for someone of Spears’ age or productivity level, I, along with many fans, have questioned the legality and overall integrity of the situation. 

There is no legal way to impose such strict limitations on someone as young and able as Britney, especially for more than a decade. This must be a flaw in the system. Considering the lack of major amendments to the terms of Spears’ conservatorship since its onset, it is obvious that both the court and her conservators do not have her best interests in mind. Rather, they are seeking to suppress someone whose image they were once offended by. Even worse, this image was a direct result of the media’s manipulation of Spears throughout her career.

So, how did one of the most celebrated names in pop music find herself in such a devastating situation? While her conservatorship began in 2008 following an unfortunate mental breakdown, Spears’ mental struggles and subsequent legal battles can be traced back to the beginning of her years of fame. As her career evolved, so did the prominence of tabloid culture and the media’s obsession with the gritty details of coveted celebrity lives. This included Spears, whose face was plastered on virtually every magazine.

The paparazzi began to stalk her during gas station runs and time spent with her children. Wherever Britney went, cameras soon followed. No individual should be subjected to such harassment, especially when that individual has done nothing to provoke it. Britney was — and still is — solely concerned with doing what she loves: performing for her fans. While living in the spotlight may seem glamorous, it was detrimental to Spears, and perhaps was the cause of all the mental stress she endured. 

During both her divorce in 2006 and the subsequent custody battle for her two children, Spears was portrayed as a trainwreck by the tabloids. Despite her need for privacy, Spears was catapulted to every front page with the entire world eyeing her next move. This is unfair and unjust treatment for anyone. Under this level of judgment and scrutiny, it is no surprise that Spears succumbed to this stress and began exuding erratic behavior. 

After trying to juggle familial issues and a touchy relationship with the media, Spears suffered a public mental breakdown in 2007. Spears’ mental health issues, in addition to her tainted public image, are what triggered her father, Jamie Spears, to appeal to the court and file for conservatorship over his seemingly unstable daughter. Since he was never that involved in Britney’s life to begin with, it is appalling that Jamie Spears sought to take advantage of someone who he viewed as his money-maker. Instead of being the supportive father that Britney needed, Jamie sought to exploit her vulnerability. Around this time it was also a common belief that Britney struggled with both her mental health and drug abuse, thus making it more appealing to the court to have her put under a conservatorship for her protection. 

Spears still cannot manage her career, seek medical care, make legal decisions or spend her money without permission and supervision. Under these limitations, Spears needs permission to drive, leave her house and accept visitors. This does not seem like extra protection, but rather like living as a prisoner in your own life. 

While the situation is heartbreaking, it is especially unnerving to learn that Spears did not have any involvement in establishing her conservatorship and was at the mercy of the court and her father. Early in her legal battle, Spears sought to hire a lawyer, Adam Streisand, who later revealed that he believed Britney to be of sound mind and perfect capability of making legal judgements. Despite Streisand’s assertions, he was dismissed by the judge of Spears’ case, who claimed to have a medical report proving Spears to be mentally unwell and incapable of retaining counsel. I am no legal expert, but I don’t believe an unknown medical report should count as substantial evidence to strip an individual of virtually all her rights. 

Streisand mentioned in the recent New York Times documentary, “Framing Britney Spears,” that the only request Spears had was for her father not to be appointed as conservator, neither for her person nor her estate. Now, more than a decade later, fans are outraged over how long this unjust conservatorship has lasted. These murky details cause speculation about whether or not Spears’ conservatorship is entirely legitimate or if there is perhaps something going on behind the scenes. 

As she continues her attempt to break free from her father’s control, Spears has refused to work until her father is no longer her conservator. It is speculated that she made this decision in 2019, when she abruptly cancelled her “Domination” Las Vegas residency and confirmed she would be going on an indefinite work hiatus. Now, 12 years since the onset of her conservatorship, Spears continues her quest to rid her father of his control over her life. 

Last week, the Judge overruled Jamie Spears’s objections against a joint conservatorship, ruling half of her estate would be allotted to Bessemer Trust Co. as a co-conservator. Although fans were hoping for the court to remove Jamie Spears from all of his responsibilities as conservator, this decision is a step in the right direction. With the rising prominence of #FreeBritney and public awareness of the issue, the court will soon realize Spears’s right to freedom. All that is needed is the continued support of both the fans and media outlets that are trying to shed light on an issue that has been neglected for too long.  

Thanks to the support of the #FreeBritney movement, the media has become more sympathetic to Spears, both in terms of her legal situation and her experience with mental health issues. Although the media is what led to Spears’s downfall in the first place, it has transformed into an uplifting platform that has potential to raise awareness and bring justice for Britney Spears. 

Alexandra Sayegh, FCRH ’23, is an international studies major from West Chester, N.Y.