Status Hearing on Britney Spears’ Conservatorship on Court TV

[Source: Court TV]

Celebrity Lawyer Christopher C. Melcher Explains the Status Hearing on Britney Spears’ Conservatorship on Court TV

A court hearing set for later this afternoon in California, could determine the fate of Britney Spears’ court-ordered conservatorship. This has gone on for 13 years. Now, an LA County Superior Court judge is expected to take up the request to terminate the conservatorship. And by the way, the petition to end it all, that was most recently filed, was filed by her father, Jamie Spears. A huge reversal of his position, as we’ve told you here on Court TV Live. Jamie Spears has served as conservator of his daughter’s estate since the conservatorship was established in 2008. And he was also the conservator of her person for quite some time, which would mean overseeing her health, her medical issues, things like that. But he stepped aside from that role in 2019. And that is when Jodi Montgomery was appointed by the court to be the temporary conservator of Spears’ person.

Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, Brenda Penny has three options today, to terminate Britney Spears conservatorship entirely, to leave it in place and replace Jamie Spears, or deny both petitions in favor of the status quo.

An LA conservatorship attorney, not connected to the case, told CNN that the judge will likely terminate the conservatorship unless there is a specific objection that is made. Standing by in California, celebrity divorce lawyer and trial attorney Chris Melcher is with us.
What is the likelihood of Jamie Spears being removed today or the conservatorship being terminated entirely today?

Chris Melcher:
“Jamie needs to go. I don’t believe that the conservatorship will end today. I think that that was a legal maneuver that Jamie played more recently because he wants to avoid responsibility or accountability for all the things that has happened in the last 13 years. And he’s hoping that if there’s an abrupt end to the conservatorship, that Britney would not then have access to all the attorney client communications that Jamie has had with counsel over the last 13 years.

So Britney’s attorney is saying, “No, let’s just remove Jamie. We’re going to put in a new temporary conservator.” And that person then would be able to get the entire attorney client file, all the communications that Jamie’s had with his counsel for the last 13 years. And it’s going to be dynamite,” stated top family law attorney Christopher C. Melcher of one of the best family law firms in California, Walzer Melcher LLP.

Julie Grant:
Most definitely. We can count on an explosive hearing today. We understand it’s most likely going to be just the attorneys there, battling this out. We believe it’s going to be done via Zoom with everybody coming in. Tell me, Chris, you mentioned the conservator of the person, we know Jodi Montgomery has been in that role. And Britney seems to really like Jodi Montgomery. How do you see this going with respect to her? Do you think that she’s going to remain? If you had to make a prediction on what’s going to happen today, what would that be?

Chris Melcher:
Jodi Montgomery’s temporary powers expire on October 8, so it’s possible that the court can just say, “We’re not going to renew those.” And Britney would be free of the restrictions that are placed over her person, which to me are the most offensive and unnecessary ones here. That’s controlling where she can live, and who she can see, and all these kinds of things. That may end, and if Britney wants to work with Jodi Montgomery on a personal level, consensual level, she can do that. Right now it’s court imposed, so that should be removed. And then Britney’s attorney is asking that there be this temporary conservator over the estate, meaning of finances just for purposes of winding it down.

Julie Grant:
We remember when Britney spoke out at that hearing in June, the whole world heard what she said, it was heartbreaking, and she called for an investigation into her dad saying that he’s engaged in conservatorship abuse, naming various things that have happened over the years. And we know there is that big financial component to this. What do you think the likelihood is that we could see an investigation done, and perhaps an accounting done, of what funds he’s used and for what purposes, throughout the years that he’s managed her estate?

Chris Melcher:
Well, Julie, that’s already underway, and for many years, the fans have been saying, “This is an abusive conservatorship”, but nobody believed them. And even when Britney spoke, there were people who thought, “Well, she’s just upset and she can’t articulate this properly.” But now we’re seeing some evidence come out of financial abuse and then the recording that was done of her, apparently at her father’s direction.

Every day we’re seeing more and more developments come out, transactions that her father engaged in with her money that were against her own interest. This is just starting and her attorney has only been on this job for two months. And already in that short time we’ve learned a lot. And now her dad is basically trying to hide, and end this thing, and get paid. But her attorney’s not going to let that happen.

Julie Grant:
Oh, no. Mathew Rosengart isn’t letting Jamie Spears off the hook for anything, especially with these allegations being raised in these recent documentaries that have dropped. The timing is just ripe for his arguments, coming into the courtroom, all this, we know there’ve been some wiretapping allegations, and I do want to get to that, but I just want to be really clear. Chris, when you said this is already underway, I was asking about an investigation by law enforcement into potential abuse here. Are you aware? I wonder if you’re aware of something we’re not, do you know if any agencies in California have opened up an investigation, or the Attorney General’s Office, anything like that?

Chris Melcher:
I don’t have knowledge of that. I know there was some speculation about it, but that has not been confirmed. I imagine that reports have been made, but we don’t have any confirmation that there’s any active criminal investigation.

Julie Grant:
I wanted to be clear on that cause we hadn’t heard that, but certainly I think there’s a lot here for one to be opened up. And let’s just talk about these wiretapping allegations. Where you are in California, it’s a two-party consent state, meaning both parties have to be agreeing on the recording happening, and in the documentary, I actually just watched one last night on Hulu, Controlling Britney Spears, a really great documentary put forth by the New York Times, saying that the allegation is that her dad was having her surveilled in her house, having her recorded in her bedroom without her consent. And that Mathew Rosengart is apparently well aware of this, not happy about it. With him being a former federal prosecutor, I am sure he’s not going to let this go. And there could be criminal and potential civil ramifications for something like this if it’s true. Right, Chris?

Chris Melcher:
Well, that’s right, Julie. It is so offensive for anyone to do that to another person, let alone a father to a daughter, all these private communications. And this really kept the conservatorship going for so long. People had asked before, “Hey, she had a lawyer, a court appointed lawyer, and that person never asked for it to be terminated.” So many people thought she didn’t want it terminated. Well, now we’re seeing that her communications were being closely monitored, possibly even the communications with her own lawyer were being monitored.

So how could she ever get help? How could she ever tell anyone? Yes, there could be some criminal exposure, now there are time limits to bring those types of actions. And we’re going to see more and more. I think as more people come forward, we’re going to see what exactly was being monitored. We know from an email that Britney’s former court appointed lawyer sent to the conservatorship attorney, that there were concerns that his communications were being monitored.

And Jamie responded back through council saying, “No, there’s no monitoring happening.” Well, that apparently was a false statement. So we could see law enforcement agencies involved in investigating this. I hope that they do because there was no reason to keep her under any surveillance.

Julie Grant:
No, I’m with you there, Chris. And I’m so glad you mentioned that about recorded conversations that allegedly happened when she was speaking with her attorney. That is just so disgusting. I’m sure it offends you as much as it does me, both being attorneys. And when you think of that relationship, and how protected it is, it’s a sacrosanct kind of relationship, and the communications stay within the two parties’ conversations. That’s about as egregious as it gets. I have so many more questions for you, Chris Melcher, and you’re going to stay with us. We thank you kindly for that, for being on Court TV this afternoon, we’re going to squeeze in a break. When we come back, we’re going to talk more about Britney Spears’ case. We know this conservatorship began with her having some mental health difficulties. We’re going to talk about what the likelihood is that the judge may order her to undergo a mental health evaluation now, at this juncture, before ending the relationship.

We’re anticipating a major hearing happening this afternoon in California that has to do with Britney Spears’ 13 year-long court conservatorship. On Monday, her new attorney, that she seems very pleased with, Mathew Rosengart, released a statement saying in part, quote, “Mr. Spears was, of course, never fit to serve for all of the many compelling reasons already contained in the record, ranging from his lack of financial acumen, to his bankruptcy, to his reported alcoholism, to the trauma he caused his daughter since childhood, to the Domestic Violence Restraining Order recently issued against him,” end quote.

That language packs a big punch. Let’s continue the conversation with celebrity lawyer and trial attorney, Christopher C. Melcher, standing by in California. Chris, what did you think hearing that statement from Mr. Rosengart, please?

Chris Melcher:
Well, he had that coming because Mr. Rosengart had nominated his successor, an accountant, John Zabel, to take over for Jamie Spears, and Mr. Zabel’s well-qualified to do something like this. But Jamie Spears went on the attack and said, “John Zabel’s not qualified and could never handle the finances and dealings of a pop star like Britney Spears.” And that’s why Mr. Rosengart came back and saying, “Well, what qualifications does Jamie had when…?”, and I’ve looked at his application in 2008, when he said he wanted to be the conservator of her estate in person, he said he was a cater, he had been bankrupt, he admitted that he was an alcoholic, and he had no experience to do anything like this. And for him to criticize now, Mr. Zabel, who’s a certified public accountant and who’s worked for studios and done entertainment deals, it’s just bizarre that he would lay himself out open for this type of response.

Julie Grant:
It really is. That’s a good word to describe it, Chris, “bizarre”. Jamie Spears is really something else. And I think a lot of people are wondering whether or not he’s ever going to be… What’s the word? Held accountable, or have to sort of defend his actions when it comes to the money he spent, what he’s used her money for. We know that Britney Spears is the star here. She is the cash cow. I was astounded watching that New York Times documentary on Hulu, Controlling Britney Spears. At one point they said she was raking in $300,000 a night with her shows, and she wanted to buy a pair of Skechers, tennis shoes, at the mall. And they had her on such a strict allowance, they wouldn’t let her have the shoes, which probably were something like $50 bucks. Just so heartbreaking. Tell me, do you think he’s ever going to have to answer to a judge about what he’s spent and why?

Chris Melcher:
I believe so. Certainly Britney doesn’t get her 13 years back. There’s nothing that can restore that. But yes, I do believe that Mr. Rosengart will continue to pursue Jamie Spears just for the sake of uncovering everything that he did, hopefully, so this thing doesn’t happen to somebody else. We do have problem in our probate court, I think in Los Angeles, and other places where this type of abuse is allowed to occur. But there’s other people, not just Jamie Spears, because Jamie Spears is not a sophisticated person. He could not have done this by himself. He needed help and he received help. And those are the ones, the powerful people, that also need to be held accountable.

Julie Grant:
That’s a really great point, Chris. Excellent points you’re making. To wrap it all up, I really like what you said about how maybe the whole system needs to be reexamined with this case, bringing everything to light, and how can this woman be so high performing, “I’m performing at such a high level all over the world.” And yet is considered someone who can’t make life decisions. Tell me, do you think this case will have a lasting impact on court conservatorships in California or elsewhere?

Chris Melcher:
Well, I hope this is part of her legacy, but we’ve seen this before. Brian Wilson from The Beach Boys was under an abusive conservatorship. Their stories go on for a long time, many people. And if this can happen to Britney Spears, it can happen to anyone. So there’s failures in the system and there’s always going to be evil parents, or there’s going to be bad attorneys out there. That just exists. But the court is the last line of defense. The court, the judge, needs to use common sense and have empathy for people. And when that’s missing, abuse occurs. So as an attorney, I am most offended by how the court system treated her over 13 years, imposing this without notice at all to her, without right to counsel, ignoring her pleas, that were made clear to the court over the years. So I am most offended by the court because they’re the ones in control and responsible for protecting her.

Julie Grant:
Yes, you’re absolutely right, Chris. They were hearing her, but yet not listening to her. Do you think that the judge is going to order Britney Spears to undergo a mental health evaluation before changing this arrangement in any way?

Chris Melcher:
The court should not. The court never insisted on a mental health examination to place this conservatorship on her 13 years ago. So it shouldn’t make her undergo one to get out of it. There was no legal or factual basis for this conservatorship over her. She’s a highly functioning, working adult. So the court needs to dissent this, not put conditions like that on it. And if there was a reason for her to be mentally evaluated, that should have happened before they placed this on her.