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Britney Spears’ conservatorship

By Tammy Newman Nov. 3, 2021

Inseo Kim Art

As exemplified in the case of Britney Spears, the United States legal system has a history of assigning involuntary treatment as a response to mental crises. In 2002, the singer-songwriter underwent a publicized mental breakdown, resulting in a legal arrangement to have every aspect of her life—from finances to personal choices—consigned to the hands of a guardian: a conservatorship. However, with the support of her fans and after contesting her case in court, the Twitter trending hashtag #FreeBritney movement was achieved.

Due to her alleged erratic behavior following the divorce with her ex-husband and the loss of custody over her two children, Spears’ father was appointed the position of her conservator in 2008 by the court. This legal action, however, left Spears confined to her father’s judgements. She claimed that he took advantage of his control and would interfere with her personal life, such as restricting her from having more children.

After staying silent for over a decade, Spears formally requested her father to be replaced, announcing in June that she would not accept future performances until her father withdrew from the conservatorship. Noticing her unease ever since the conservatorship, Spears’ fans started trending #FreeBritney: a fan-led movement to raise awareness for Spears’ situation.

As the movement progressed even further, a court testimony was held, where Spears alleged she was drugged and forced to perform against her will. In response to these accusations, Spears’ father said he was willing to remove himself as her conservator and in September 2021, Jamie Spears was suspended from the conservatorship.

Some claim that the Spears case demonstrates how the legal system disservices victims of mental health issues. In particular, conservatorships make it so that the person at hand has their decisions—whether it be personal, financial, or private—made for them, which is a potential infringement of individual liberties. Although the Spears case has been criticised as an abuse of conservatorship, the court still implements them to resolve cases: according to the Department of Health Care Services, in 2017, over 7,000 people in California were placed into either permanent or temporary conservatorships.

Despite drawing criticism for conservatorships in general, Spears’ case has also prompted governments such as the government of California to address its inequities. On Sept. 30, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a #FreeBritney-inspired bill proposed by Assemblyman Evan Low, increasing the requirements as well as scrutiny applied to professional conversators. By prohibiting financial conflicts involving the conservator, the legislation attempts to prevent situations similar to Spears’ from recurring. The majority of the new provisions will not be in effect until 2023 or 2024, but additional reforms to the law can be expected within next year.

“Conservatorships are a clear example of an abuse of power. Confining people with mental illness to the decisions of someone else will only make their health worse,” Junior Thy Nguyen said.

Spears’s conservatorship battle is a prominent example of a common controversial legal occurrence some argue infringes on human rights. Though the alleged abuse of her conservatorship took over a decade to resolve, Spears’ case has led to social media and justice movements ultimately contributing to its resolution.


About the Contributors

Tammy Newman

Staff Writer

Tammy Newman is a junior at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for Journalism. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family as well as reading and writing.

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