LOS ANGELES — After 13 years, Britney Spears is officially free of her conservatorship, a California judge ruled Friday.
“The court finds and determines that the conservatorship of the person and estate of Britney Jean Spears is no longer required,” ruled Judge Brenda Penny. “The conservatorship of the person and estate of Britney Jean Spears is hereby terminated.”
The news coming out of the courtroom, after a hearing lasting no more than 40 minutes, sent a crowd of Spears fans in the street outside into raucous shouts and screams.
Britney Spears was not on the call listening to the hearing. But her father, former conservator Jamie Spears, was and so was her mother, Lynne Spears. Only lawyers in the case spoke. Jodi Montgomery, her former conservator of the person, and John Zabel, the new temporary conservator of her finances, also dialed in.
Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, was in court.
“Ms Spears…obviously fully maintains the position that it is time after more than a decade for the conservatorship to be terminated entirely,” he told the judge. “The record is clear…that the time has come today to end the conservatorship.”
Jamie’s Spears’ lawyer, Alex Weingarten, said his legal team had “nothing to add. “We affirm our position,” Weingarten said. “My client wants the conservatorship to end immediately.”
Zabel, an accountant, will retain some powers, Rosengarten told the judge. He said the two powers include the execution of estate planning documents and the power to transfer assets outside of Britney’s trust into her trust.
Outside the courthouse, a rally gathered to cheer on the pop star, with some fans drawing “Free Britney” in block letters on the street in pink chalk, others decorating a pink Christmas tree in her honor.
Rosengart was expected to address the crowd.
Although the conservatorship might be over, the hearings in the case are not. The next one is scheduled for Jan. 19, possibly to deal with remaining motions and petitions in her case file.
“History was made today. Britney is Free!” wrote Spears’ fianc Sam Asghari on Instagram shortly after the hearing ended.
Spears was placed under a conservatorship in 2008 after suffering a very public breakdown the year prior that played out before the paparazzi, who captured her erratic behavior.
Momentum to end Spears’ conservatorship picked up dramatically in February, following the release of the New York Times’ documentary “Framing Britney Spears,” which put a spotlight on controversies surrounding the pop star’s conservatorship and the #FreeBritney movement to end it.
The public outcry against the conservatorship reached a fever pitch after Spears delivered an emotional testimony at a June court hearing, in which she called her conservatorship “abusive”and pleaded for it to end without undergoing another psychological evaluation.
“I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m OK and I’m happy,” she said, dialing into the hearing remotely. “I thought that maybe if I said it enough I would maybe become happy, because I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized … I’m so angry it’s insane. And I’m depressed.”
The pop star doubled down on her pleas at another hearing in July, calling for an “investigation” of alleged abuse she suffered under her conservatorship. This hearing brought a big change in the pop star’s case: Judge Penny ruled she could choose her own attorney, replacing her court-appointed lawyer Samuel Ingham III, who represented her from the conservatorship’s beginning.
Spears hired Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor-turned-skilled litigator, who has vowed to investigate alleged misconduct by Spears’ father and longtime conservator James “Jamie” Spears.
And at a Sept. 30 hearing, Spears won another victory: After controlling his daughter’s person, finances or both since the conservatorship’s implementation in 2008, Jamie was suspended from the conservatorship and ordered to turn over all her assets, estimated at about $60 million, to a temporary conservator, accountant John Zabel.
The ruling came after Jamie’s lawyer Vivian Thoreen acknowledged her client wants his daughter’s conservatorship to end, but said there is no point replacing him with someone else just to end it later.
Jamie has since hired new lawyers, Alan Weingarten and Eric Bakewell of Los Angeles, who asserted in a filing last week that through the conservatorship Spears “has been able to return to a path towards stability.”
“The mission has been successful and it is now time for Britney to re-take control of her life,” they continued.
Contributing: Bill Keveney, Cydney Henderson, Marco della Cava