LOS ANGELES—There were no more of the heated arguments or dueling court filings of the past few months, no more tearful testimony or angry accusations.
For one day at least, everyone surrounding Britney Spears agreed. She needed to be freed.
Most important among them was Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny, who at a hearing Friday terminated the conservatorship that controlled the pop singer’s life and money for nearly 14 years.
Spears did not attend the 30-minute hearing that was almost anti-climactic after the courtroom drama of recent proceedings, in which Spears demanded first the ouster of her father from power over her, then the removal of the legal shackles on her life.
It felt almost like a formality. The celebration that followed was plenty dramatic, though.
“Best day ever…praise the Lord…can I get an Amen???” Spears said on Twitter and Instagram minutes after the ruling.
Jubilation erupted outside the courthouse, with fans cheering and shouting after the decision was announced. The crowd chanted “Britney! Britney! Britney!” and fans sang and danced to Spears’ song “Stronger.”
“Good God I love my fans so much it’s crazy!!!” Spears said in her posts. “I think I’m gonna cry the rest of the day!!!!”
The decision capped a stunning odyssey that saw Spears publicly demand the end of the conservatorship, hire her own attorney, have her father removed from power and finally win the freedom to make her own medical, financial and personal decisions for the first time since 2008.
Those surrounding Spears said she is equipped to make those decisions.
“We have a safety net in place for Britney both on the personal side and on the financial side,” her attorney Mathew Rosengart said outside the courthouse. “But Britney, as of today, is a free woman and she’s an independent woman. And the rest, with her support system, will be up to Britney.”
Jodi Montgomery, the court-appointed conservator who oversaw the singer’s life and medical decisions starting in 2019, developed a care plan with her therapists and doctors to guide Spears into the aftermath.
“There is no reason Ms. Spears can’t lead a safe, happy, fulfilling life after this conservatorship,” Montgomery’s attorney, Lauriann Wright, said at the hearing.
Penny’s decision came with remarkably few caveats.
She gave no orders that Spears should undergo mental evaluations first, something legal experts had assumed would be part of the conservatorship’s endgame. The judge said California law did not require her to order further evaluation of Spears if no one requested it.
The judge kept a small part of the conservatorship temporarily in place so that the singer’s money can be moved around in the coming months as financial power is transferred back to her.
California law says a conservatorship, called a guardianship in some states, is justified for a “person who is unable to provide properly for his or her personal needs for physical health, food, clothing, or shelter,” or for someone who is “substantially unable to manage his or her own financial resources or resist fraud or undue influence.” The conservator, as the appointee put in charge is called, may be a family member, a close friend or a court-appointed professional.
As recently as last spring, it appeared that Spears’ conservatorship could continue for years. Then it unraveled with surprising speed.
Key to the unraveling was a speech Spears made at a hearing in June when she passionately described the restrictions and scrutiny as “abusive” and said “I just want my life back,” a line her lawyer repeated in court Friday. The consensus on display Friday is unlikely to last. Rosengart has further vowed to pursue an investigation of James Spears’ role in the 13 years he oversaw the conservatorship. He said he and his team have found mismanagement of Britney Spears’ finances, suggesting she could pursue further legal action. Court records put her net worth at about $60 million.
He also said law enforcement should investigate revelations in a New York Times documentary about a listening device placed in her bedroom.
James Spears’ attorneys said Rosengart’s allegations ranged from unsubstantiated to impossible, and that he only ever acted in his daughter’s best interest.