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Britney Spears could soon be free from the controlling conservatorship


Britney Spears has a big hearing in court later today. It's the one that could decide whether to end the conservatorship that's controlled her life for the past 13 years. Here to tell us more on what's ahead is NPR's Andrew Limbong. Andrew, remind us where we are on this case 'cause I know Britney scored a big win back in September.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Yeah, definitely. So just to rewind, think back to earlier this summer - right? - when Britney Spears first spoke publicly about her conservatorship in a testimony that leaked and, you know, was everywhere. And that's when we learned a lot of details about what she could and couldn't do. You know, she said that she wanted to have more children but said she wasn't allowed to and wanted to hire her own lawyer but couldn't. And, you know, that's when we found out that she didn't even know that ending the conservatorship was even a possibility.

And, you know, we learned that she felt scared and intimidated by people who were supposed to be watching over her, which, you know - and she was the one paying all of these people not allowing her to live her life, right? And so since then, her big goal was to have her father, Jamie Spears, removed from his role in the guardianship because they have kind of a fractious relationship. And at the time, he was the conservator of Britney Spears' estate. That is her money. But a judge ruled in September to suspend him from the arrangement altogether, replacing him with a temporary accountant named John Zabel.

MARTÍNEZ: So what's on the line today?

LIMBONG: Well, today, you know, the whole conservatorship could end, which would mean Britney Spears would be the one in charge of her own legal decisions and where she can go and, like, her money and stuff. And she's repeatedly asked for the conservatorship to end without having to go through any sort of a mental or psychological evaluation. Now, the judge may or may not agree to that. And then on top of that, just ending the conservatorship might not be, like, a clean cut. So - because remember - so there are two conservatorships at play, right? There's the conservator of her estate, which we just said is the one in charge of her financial dealings. And then there's a conservator of her person, who is the person in charge of overseeing her, like, health and personal well-being. And so, you know, while Britney and her lawyer are hoping for both conservatorships to end, it could be that one stays around while the other goes away or vice versa. Or, you know, it could even be, like, a gradual timeline for them to end, so, like, it won't end today but later on down the future.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So besides people who are fans of Britney Spears who are very interested in what happens to her, who else is watching this?

LIMBONG: Pretty much anyone interested in a guardianship law or guardianship law reform, right? - which up until now is a very niche sort of subject. But the case has really put the issue into the spotlight. We should remember that most people in guardianships are either elderly or have disabilities. And so there's been a movement for years advocating that guardianship laws violate conservatees' civil rights, right? And these systems are rife with abuse and corruption. But it's just that victims of guardianship abuse generally speaking don't have legions of fans supporting them and behind their back. You know, hashtag #FreeBritney advocates have actually told me that even though they didn't know about these issues and all this guardianship stuff before Britney, it's become kind of a big cause for them to pick up and, you know, continue running with. And, you know, you can sort of see it, too, in the rallies. They're always talking about somebody else besides Britney Spears, right?

MARTÍNEZ: Quickly, her father, Jamie Spears, what's he said since he's been suspended?

LIMBONG: Yeah. Well, he said in paperwork that he unconditionally loves and supports his daughter full stop - but grain of salt. He is currently being investigated by Britney's lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, who's begun a discovery process looking for documents and to find out what he's been doing with Britney's money all this time.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Andrew Limbong. Andrew, thanks a lot.

LIMBONG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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.