Last week, The New York Times released their highly-anticipated documentary, Framing Britney Spears – examining and exploring the known details of Spears' controversial conservatorship battle. As expected, the documentary sent those unfamiliar with the stars ongoing challenges into a complete spiral, driving a collective wanting from many to understand what is conservatorship, and will Britney ever be able to escape hers?
What is the #FreeBritney movement?
While it's has gained major traction in the last year, the #FreeBritney movement has been building momentum for quite some time. In 2017, the founders of the movement – Tess Barker and Barbara Gray – set up a pop-culture podcast, Britney's Gram, as a light-hearted place to unpack the Princess of Pop's Instagram posts. But when Spears went completely incognito on Instagram at the beginning of 2019, it forced the pair to start digging further.
As Barker and Gray began to uncover more information, the #FreeBritney hashtag started to pick up steam on social media; supported by both fellow fans and several people working in the entertainment industry. On April 22nd 2019, Spears' fans made their concerns heard – gathering outside of West Hollywood City Hall holding #FreeBritney-tagged signs and posters.
What is conservatorship?
As dictated on the the California Courts official website, a conservatorship "is a court case where a judge appoints a responsible person or organisation (called the “conservator”) to care for another adult (called the “conservatee”) who cannot care for himself or herself or manage his or her own finances."
Spears was first placed under conservatorship 12 years ago, following an extremely public breakdown in 2008. As a result of this, Spears was placed under a "5150 hold," which allowed her father Jamie Spears to petition the courts for an emergency "temporary" conservatorship. The order has been in place ever since, however, Jamie did step down temporarily in September 2019 citing “personal health reasons,” with Britney’s longtime “care manager,” Jodi Montgomery, taking his place.
Who is Britney Spears' conservator?
As mentioned, Jamie Spears was appointed as Britney's conservator in 2008, and while he has stepped down for the moment, the singer has made it very clear that she does not want him to return to his role. According to court documents, Britney is "strongly opposed" to her father returning to his role as the sole conservator of her "affairs and finances." Instead, she would prefer Montgomery to remain in the role, as they work towards Spears having more autonomy over her life.
In another filing, Britney voiced through her lawyer Samual Ingham, that she eventually does want to have "power and authorisation to pursue opportunities related to professional commitments and activities including but not limited to performing, recording, videos, tours, TV shows, and other similar activities as long as they are approved by the conservator of the person and the Conservatee's medical team."
In November 2020, Ingham filed new documents on behalf of the singer, which requested that her father be immediately removed as the sole conservator of her estate. However, a Los Angeles superior court judge, Brenda Penny, rejected the request.
Can her conservatorship be overturned?
Back in November 2020, Ingham had filled the first request to remove Spears' father from her conservatorship. At the time, Judge Penny didn't approve Spears's first petition, but she also didn't dismiss future requests from being lodged. The New York Times reported that more decisions and discussion around the state of her current arrangement would take place in February 2021. Encouragingly, Spears was granted permission to expand her legal team towards the end of last year. This marked a milestone step-forward in her fight for freedom as traditionally, conservatorships do not allow the conservatee the right to hire an attorney.
Despite what seemed like a hopeful step forward for Spears late last year, new court documents filed on Wednesday June 30 revealed that Judge Penny had again denied the request to remove her father as the soul conservator.
"The conservator's request to suspend James P. Spears immediately upon the appointment of Bessemer Trust Company of California, N.A. as sole conservator of estate is denied without prejudice," the document read.
The decision came just days after Spears shared an explosive public testimony at the court hearing for her conservatorship; where she shared details of what she describes as an "abusive" conservatorship. Spears also went on to allege that her "loved the control to hurt his own daughter."
At present, there's no concrete indication or timeline of when Spears' conservatorship will end.
Journalist Pandora Sykes is launching an investigative podcast
Over the last 12 months, many networks, journalists and investigators have tried their hand at piecing together the tragedy of Spears' conservatorship. As we know, it was a podcast that started the #FreeBritney movement, and now journalist Pandora Sykes is continuing the fight with a new podcast titled, Pieces of Britney.
"For the past six months, with the help of my brilliant producers Anne Isger and Sasha Yevtushenko, I’ve been working on the incredible life of Britney Jean Spears—and what her story tells us about sex, politics, the entertainment industry and how we treat women in the public eye," Sykes wrote.
For the eight-part series, which aired on July 1, Sykes interviewed lawyers, psychologists, journalists, #FreeBritney advocates and veterans of the music industry to help in piecing together the often conflicting accounts in Britney's story.