Celebrity Lawyer Discusses if Britney Spears Will Be Free

Britney Spears at Teen Choice Awards in 2009
Celebrity Lawyer Christopher C. Melcher of top family law firm Walzer Melcher LLP Discusses if Britney Spears Will Finally Be Free

[Source: RN Breakfast-ABC News]

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/will-britney-spears-finally-be-free-conservatorship/13628180

Celebrity Lawyer Christopher C. Melcher Discusses if Britney Spears Will Finally Be Free on RN Breakfast with Sally Sara

Sally:
But first this half hour, we start in the United States and could Britney Spears finally be on the verge of freedom? The final hearing of the pop star’s case to end her conservatorship comes to a head today in what has now become a longstanding legal battle. The 39-year-old is accusing her father of exerting unreasonable control over her body, her finances and freedoms for the past 14 years. Christopher C. Melcher is ranked one of the best family law attorneys in California. Christopher, welcome to RN Breakfast.

Before we get into the latest developments, Christopher, just take us back. In the US, and in this case, what is a conservatorship?

Christopher Melcher:
A conservatorship of this type is placed upon someone typically at end of life if they have something like dementia where they’re unable to provide for food, clothing, or shelter or resist undue influence and fraud. These folks, they’re adults, but they need someone else to make decisions for them on very basic level items, and as a result, all of their liberties are taken away from them, invested into this other adult called a conservator.

Sally:
How restrictive is the conservatorship in Britney Spears’ case?

Christopher Melcher:
Well, it was the most restrictive kind. Her father was granted powers, not only over her finances to make contracts and pay bills, hire people, but also over her person. So these would include where she could live, who she could see, and there’s allegations that she was even medicated and placed into a mental health facility.

Sally:
I mean, part of this story, Christopher, has been playing out as a celebrity story, but from a legal perspective, how much attention has it been gathering given the severity of this conservatorship?

Christopher Melcher:
Well, fortunately there’s been intense pressure in the last year through this Free Britney movement, but for the rest of the time, it’s happened mostly in silence. The conservatorship action was started without any notice to Britney, which is against the law, but her father convinced the court that giving notice to Britney of this request would somehow harm her. So, it started in secret and these orders were placed upon her over 13 years ago.

Then when she appeared in court quickly with a lawyer, the court wouldn’t even allow her lawyer to represent her and appointed somebody else who she had no relationship with. Then all these years, this has happened without any real involvement by her or ability to speak for herself. Then now we’re also being told that she was being monitored and surveilled by the conservatorship team so that she couldn’t have access to council or friends or support system.

Sally:
So Christopher, we’ve got this final hearing in the case, what’s likely to happen today?

Christopher Melcher:

“Everyone’s in agreement now that’s involved in the case that there’s no need for a conservatorship, and so I believe the court will restore all of these rights and powers back to Britney Spears, but it’s also going to leave open the financial disputes that involve now over $2 million in attorney’s fees that folks are seeking her to pay for this conservatorship that she’s disputing and other accounting issues. So those will be left open for further proceedings, and then I imagine she would also be bringing legal action against her family members and others who were involved in this,” stated the celebrity divorce lawyer of top family law firm Walzer Melcher LLP.

Sally:
What’s happened to her earnings during this time?

Christopher Melcher:
Well, she was making enormous sums of money, including from this Las Vegas residency, which in and of itself should have been a red flag to the court had it used any measure of common sense, that a person who could work in a Las Vegas residency doing pretty grueling schedule would not need a conservatorship by definition. So she was making quite a bit of money and eventually she refused to do any further work, because she felt she was being exploited by the conservatorship. So she will, I assume, continue making money off of royalties and other things, and it’s her decision whether she would return to touring.

Sally:
So, her father is now also supportive of ending the conservatorship. Is that correct, Chris?

Christopher Melcher:
He did. As a procedural or tactical move when a lot of pressure was placed on him and he was about to be removed as a conservator, he then said he would support the ending of the conservatorship. The suspicion is, is that he did that so that the $48 million bond that the estate of Britney Spears has placed upon him to ensure his good faith performance would be released. So those disputes, I think, have now been resolved so that conservatorship can be terminated while also leaving that bond in place and the other claims that she may have against her father.

Sally:
What sort of ripples has this sent through the entertainment industry and legal circles in California, particularly people dealing with minors and young people who have large artistic and financial success very early?

Christopher Melcher:
Well, I think previously some thought that these conservatorships were beneficial and that could be used for someone who was very talented, but had struggles with mental health or drug issues. Now that we’re seeing here that these type of conservatorships were never designed for those folks and to see how they could be abused and how a family member could exploit another family member through this legal mechanism, I believe that there’ll be much more scrutiny on any attempt to place a celebrity under a conservatorship. I’m hoping that it’ll also bring some more common sense in the court system, that they would follow the laws that exist and question these things and not just enter a conservatorship without critical thinking.

Sally:
From a legal perspective, what’s the thing that surprised you most with this case?

Christopher Melcher:

That it started without notice and she was denied her right to counsel. These things are what we call due process in United States, that we have a right to notice of proceedings so that we can put on a defense, and that we also have a right to counsel of our choice to argue for us. Those two fundamental rights she was deprived of and allowed her father to place this conservatorship on her without any notice to her or ability for her to speak for herself through her counsel.

Christopher Melcher:
So, those are surprising that the court allowed that to happen. Then second, the surveillance that’s alleged to have occurred, that would be highly intrusive and keep her from being able to reach out and get help from anyone, because her communications were apparently being monitored.

Sally:
When it comes to the legal proceedings and also the financial ramifications, do you think this story still has a long way to go?

Christopher Melcher:
It does. Her father was not sophisticated. He was a caterer who was admittedly an alcoholic and went through bankruptcy, so he did not have the sophistication to pull this off. There were others that were involved and assisted him, and these are over 13 years of financial transactions, millions and millions of compensation that were paid. So Britney and her attorney have vowed to pursue those claims against everyone, and I would imagine that could go on for years.