California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation designed to protect those under court-ordered conservatorships, following the high-profile saga of pop star Britney Spears.
His signature on the so-called #FreeBritney bill came as Jamie Spears, who served as his daughter’s conservator for the past 13 years, was suspended from that post-Wednesday by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge following a bitter and divisive legal battle for control of the singer’s life and fortune.
The new law imposes fines on professional conservators who have been found by a court to have abused their charges, with penalties of up to $10,000 per offence. For individuals who are professional conservators, the fine for wrongdoing can be up to $1,000 per offence.
“California’s conservatorship system is failing people from every walk of life, whether they are a global superstar whose struggles, unfortunately, play out in public, or a family unsure of how to take care of an elderly parent,” said Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low, who introduced the legislation.
“This bill saw unanimous, bipartisan support throughout the process because it’s painfully clear that we can, and should, do better,” he said.
The law also gives greater power to those placed in conservatorships to choose their own attorney to represent them.
A hearing on whether to entirely end Spears’ conservatorship was scheduled for Nov. 12. “This suspension is directly what Britney wanted, she does not want Jamie in her life,” Britney Spears’ new attorney, Mathew Rosengart, said in court.
“The current situation is untenable,” said Judge Brenda Penny in siding with the 39-year-old entertainer.
Thursday’s ruling to remove the singer’s father was met with cheers and jubilation from fans and the entertainer herself. “In paradise celebrating,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “Having the time of my life.”
Spears’ battle to regain control of her finances boiled over this summer during court hearings on the conservatorship. “I want to be able to be heard on what they did to me,” she testified via phone in June, as the judge considered cutting an audio feed of the proceedings. The hearings were closed to the public due to coronavirus concerns.
Sometimes breaking down in tears, Spears said she had been abused and coerced into performing during the conservatorship. She accused her father of exploiting her and said she had been overmedicated and forced to receive an IUD so she couldn’t have children.
A newly released New York Times documentary contained allegations that her home and bedroom had been bugged. It’s unclear if the court supervising the conservatorship controlling Spears’ life knew about or approved the surveillance. Jamie Spears says his actions were done with the consent of Britney, her court-appointed attorney and/or the court.
Jamie Spears has consistently denied abusing his daughter and has claimed he only had her best interests at heart. But after she recently began speaking out, the father said he would grant her wishes and step down.
The celebrity was placed in a conservatorship after she suffered a series of highly publicized mental health episodes while being pursued by paparazzi and reporters.