Britney Spears Retains New Lawyer at Emotional Hearing

LOS ANGELES—Britney Spears retained a new lawyer, Greenberg Traurig LLP’s Mathew Rosengart, Wednesday who promised to petition the court to remove Ms. Spears’s father, James Spears, from his role as her conservator.

At the hearing, in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Judge Brenda Penny accepted the resignation of Ms. Spears’s prior court-appointed attorney, Samuel Ingham III, and she acknowledged Mr. Rosengart as her new lawyer.

Britney Spears

The hearing marked the next steps in the 39-year-old pop star’s effort to reclaim more control over her life and $60 million estate 13 years into a conservatorship that put Mr. Spears at the helm.

Britney Spears
Britney Spears

Ms. Spears addressed the court via phone and fell into tears at the end of another emotional testimony two weeks after an earlier hearing in which she railed against her father and her legal predicament.

In this hearing, she repeatedly asked Judge Penny to remove her father from the conservatorship immediately and to investigate him for “abuse.”

Ms. Spears described years of being overworked and restricted in her freedom to do anything from take hair vitamins, to drink coffee, to eat a hamburger and french fries.

She described her circumstances as “feeling cruelty.” “If this is not abuse I don’t know what is.”

Ms. Spears said she didn’t want to be psychologically evaluated in order to remove her father as conservator, and said she had “serious abandonment issues.”

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Mr. Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor and high-profile litigator who has represented Steven Spielberg, Sean Penn and Ben Affleck, said he would file a petition to remove Mr. Spears as soon as possible, and said his firm would be investigating the entire conservatorship and the validity of its implementation in 2008.

“There’s a question as to why Mr. Spears doesn’t voluntarily step aside today,” said Mr. Rosengart, who appeared in court in person. “If he loves his daughter it is time to step aside.”

Mr. Spears’s lawyer, Vivian Lee Thoreen, said her client isn’t going to resign, calling it “not appropriate,” and said he looks forward to working with Ms. Spears’s new representation and Jodi Montgomery, Ms. Spears’s personal conservator, on a path forward.

Ms. Spears was placed under the conservatorship after a probate judge deemed her unable to manage her affairs. Struggling with mental-health issues at the time, Ms. Spears then acknowledged publicly the need for the legal arrangement.

A conservatorship is a legal arrangement where a judge appoints a person to assume responsibility over someone else, usually a close relative, who lacks the ability to manage their own personal and financial affairs. While conservatorships often involve the elderly, they can also oversee younger people struggling with mental-health or substance-abuse issues.

The judge also accepted a petition from wealth management firm Bessemer Trust to back out of its plans to be a co-conservator with Mr. Spears, effectively making him sole conservator of Ms. Spears’s finances again.

Following exchanges between the lawyers regarding Ms. Spears’s capacity and concerns, and Ms. Montgomery’s and Mr. Spears’s roles, the judge closed the session by addressing all of the attorneys.

“Everybody should be working collaboratively to help Ms. Spears get to the point where she wants to be,” she said. “It’s not about anyone else, it’s about her.”

Outside the courthouse, supporters of Ms. Spears gathered amid a sea of media carrying posters that read “Free Britney.” There has been growing interest in Ms. Spears’s dissatisfaction with her legal arrangement, fueling a “#FreeBritney” movement of people who oppose her conservatorship.

After the hearing, Ms. Spears thanked her friends in an Instagram post, employing the #FreeBritney hashtag herself for the first time.

“I feel gratitude and blessed,” she wrote under a video of her horseback riding and turning cartwheels to KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” “You have no idea what it means to me [to] be supported by such awesome fans.”

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