In a raw and emotional address, Britney Spears on Wednesday asked a judge to end the conservatorship that has controlled her money and affairs since 2008.
Since Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny did not make a last-minute decision Wednesday to seal the proceedings, the pop star’s words were heard in open court for the first time in the 13-year conservatorship.
She said it has been a too long since she’s been in control of her own finances, and that she would like to sue her family to once again gain autonomy.
“I just want my life back,” Spears said in her address to the court. “It’s been 13 years and it’s enough.
“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive.”
Fans gather outside courthouse
Several dozen fans from the so-called #FreeBritney movement gathered outside the courthouse before the hearing, holding signs that read “Free Britney now!” and “Get out of Britney’s life!”
Jennifer Preston, 33, crossed the country from Richmond, Va., to be present outside the hearing because, she says, “I’m a mom and I’m a fan.”
“We’re here to hear what she has to say,” Preston said. “She’s been treated like a child for the last 13 years; she hasn’t had control of her life or her finances, even though she’s clearly capable enough to do those things.”
Spears, who addressed the court remotely, asked for the hearing so she could address the court directly.
Her court-appointed lawyer, Samuel Ingham III, made the request at an April 28 hearing. He gave no indication of what the pop star wants to say.
But in recent court filings, Spears has sought a greater say over who runs the conservatorship, and has asked that her father, who had extensive power over her life and money for most of its existence, be removed.
WATCH | #FreeBritney movement supports Britney Spears’s fight for autonomy:
Spears said through Ingham that she fears her father, James Spears, and would not end a two and a half year pause on her career as long as he has control over it.
The judge declined to remove James Spears entirely, though he now plays a smaller role. He serves as co-conservator of his daughter’s finances along with estate management firm the Bessemer Trust. In 2019, he relinquished his role as conservator over his daughter’s life choices to a court-appointed professional.
Sarah Wenz, a lawyer with the firm Fox Rothschild in Miami, told CBC News the nature of Britney Spears’s conservatorship is highly abnormal, being in place while Spears has continued her career as a high-profile singer.
“It would be highly abnormal to have a person who is under conservatorship that could still go present at award shows, who could do a Las Vegas Las Vegas residence,” Wenz said.
“That’s one of the things that’s so unique about this case … we don’t know that there’s been any sort of permanent diagnosis that would indicate that she couldn’t resume control of her life.”
Last week, Britney Spears said on Instagram that she isn’t sure if she will ever perform live again.
“I have no idea,” she said, answering a fan who asked when she planned to take the stage. “I’m having fun right now. I’m in a transition in my life and I’m enjoying myself. So that’s it.”
First public address by Spears
Also on Wednesday, Spears said that she has largely faked her happiness in the past, hoping that it would help her improve her own emotional state.
The reality, she said, is much darker.
“I’m traumatized. I’m not happy. I can’t sleep,” she said. “I’m so angry. I’m insane.”
Britney Spears has spoken in court about the conservatorship before, but the courtroom was always cleared and transcripts sealed.
The last time she was known to have addressed the judge was in May 2019.
Spears has since requested greater transparency from the court, and Penny has allowed far more to remain public.
The singer has never asked the court to end the conservatorship entirely, though she has emphasized in documents that she reserves the right to do so at any time.
It was put in place as she underwent a mental health crisis in 2008. She has credited it with saving her from financial ruin and keeping up her status as a top pop star.
Her father and his attorneys have emphasized that she and her fortune, which court records put at more than $50 million US, remain vulnerable to fraud and manipulation. Under the law, the burden would be on Spears to prove she is competent to be released and free to make her own choices.