A judge in the United States has suspended Britney Spears’s father from the conservatorship that has controlled the singer’s life and money for 13 years.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny on Wednesday agreed with a petition from Spears and her lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, that James Spears needs to give up his role as conservator.
“The current situation is not tenable. It reflects a toxic environment which requires the suspension of Jamie Spears effective today,” Penny said during a court hearing.
The move is a crucial victory for the pop star, who pleaded in dramatic hearings in June and July that her father needed to be cut out.
James Spears sought the conservatorship in 2008 and had been its primary controller and biggest champion. However, he reversed course in recent weeks, asking the judge to end the conservatorship.
Britney Spears and Rosengart agreed that the conservatorship should end and said in court documents that James Spears’s removal was a necessary first step.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Oana Brooks, a civil rights attorney from Baltimore, said that the decision a “huge victory” for the artist.
“Unlike Mr Spears, who actually petitioned the court to end the conservatorship altogether, Britney Spears’ attorney on her behalf requested that he just be suspended from the conservatorship, and that’s what the judge said today,” Brooks said.
She added that it was possible the court would cancel the conservatorship altogether in the upcoming hearing, and that that the US Congress was likely to revisit the law and look at possible reforms in the conservatorship system.
The conservatorship has been increasingly scrutinised as Britney Spears, 39, has sought for months to have her father removed as the overseer of her $60m estate.
She told the court in June the arrangement was “abusive, embarrassing and humiliating”, and included her being prohibited from removing an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) to become pregnant.
“If Ms Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own life, Mr Spears believes she should get that chance,” said the petition to terminate the legal arrangement.
Britney Spears, who shot to international fame as a teenager in the early 2000s, was placed under the conservatorship after suffering a public mental health breakdown. The nature of her mental health issues has never been revealed.
In late 2009, she returned to performing, recording several more albums, and going on sell-out world tours until her last performance in late 2018.
Hours before the hearing on Wednesday, a major street outside the court 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.
As the crowd grew, fans sang Spears’s hits “Toxic” and “Baby One More Time”, and speakers described abusive conservatorships that had affected their families.
“We’re making history right now,” said Martino Odeh, 27, who travelled from Phoenix to be at the courthouse. “And the fact that we could change a pop star’s life, who has been robbed of her rights for 13 years, is crazy. It’s monumental.
“We’re hoping for a big change today,” Odeh said.
Jodi Montgomery, a court-appointed professional, will now act 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.