LOS ANGELES (AP) — Judge Brenda Penny has been the calm eye of the storm surrounding Britney Spears and the conservatorship that controls her life. Now all eyes are on Penny.
The Los Angeles Superior Court Judge has thus far been able to act more as a caretaker than a dictator in the case, but at a potentially pivotal hearing on Wednesday afternoon, she will be pressed to make major decisions on whether to keep Spears’ father as her conservator or whether to end the conservatorship altogether.
Hours before the hearing, a major street outside the courthouse was closed to vehicles, allowing about 100 Spears supporters to march and host a rally where they shouted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the conservatorship has got to go!” and other pro-Britney chants.
Spears’ attorney Mathew Rosengart has been aggressively pushing for the ouster of her father, James Spears, since moments after Penny allowed her to hire Rosengart in July. Penny denied Rosengart’s request for an emergency hearing on the issue, telling the attorney it could wait until Wednesday.
And in a major reversal, James Spears, who first sought the conservatorship in 2008 and has been its primary overseer, has filed a petition to end it altogether. He urged the judge to make a decision on the issue Wednesday and make questions of his status moot.
Britney Spears and Rosengart said in a subsequent filing that they agree with her father that the conservatorship should end, marking the first time she has called for an end to the arrangement in court documents.
They emphasized, however, that it is more important to her that her father be removed, calling it a necessary first step toward her freedom and “ending the Kafkaesque nightmare imposed upon her.”
Rosengart said in another filing this week that James Spears “crossed unfathomable lines” by engaging in illegal surveillance of her, including communications with her lawyer, as reported in “Controlling Britney Spears,” a documentary from The New York Times and the FX network, one of two dueling documentaries released on the eve of the hearing.
Britney Spears was also engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Sam Asghari, earlier this month, which means putting together a prenuptial agreement that her father should not be involved in, her court filings said.
James Spears in 2019 stepped aside as the so-called conservator of his daughter’s person, with control over her life decisions, maintaining only his role as conservator of her estate, with control over her finances. He and his attorneys have said that renders many of his daughter’s complaints about his control over her life meaningless.
Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional, now acts as conservator of Britney Spears’ person, and Rosengart said in court documents that Montgomery also consents to ending the conservatorship so long as it can be done safely and smoothly.
It is not clear whether Britney Spears will take part in Wednesday’s hearing. At two recent hearings, she gave dramatic speeches decrying her status that rallied even more fans and fellow celebrities to her cause, and intensified the already loud calls to #FreeBritney.
James Spears has denied acting in anything but his daughter’s best interest and has declined Rosengart’s demands that he resign immediately. He has said in court papers that he does not know of “a single medical professional nor the report of a single probate investigator” that concluded that his presence as conservator was harming his daughter or that he should be replaced.
The conservatorship was established in 2008 when Britney Spears’ began to have public mental struggles as hordes of paparazzi aggressively followed her everywhere and she lost custody of her children.