What the Latest Ruling in Britney Spears' Legal Case Actually Means

It's been celebrated as a major win, but nothing about her conservatorship has changed.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
February 12, 2021, 7:55pm
Britney Spears
Photo by Valerie Macon / Getty Images

After a California judge handed down the latest ruling in Britney Spears' conservatorship case on Thursday, many of her fans rejoiced. "Britney fucking won BRITNEY FUCKING WON!!!!" one tweeted; "CELEBRATING FOR BRITNEY," another wrote. Judging from the tenor of #FreeBritney Twitter alone, it might seem like the pop star just scored a major victory. In reality, nothing about her legal situation has changed.

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To understand what Thursday's ruling actually means, it's important to first unpack what a conservatorship is, and how Spears' is structured. In layman's terms, conservatorships allow someone else to take charge of your life—putting them in control over what you do, the healthcare you receive, and how your money is spent—because a court has deemed you to be medically incapable of taking care of yourself. Spears was placed in a conservatorship in 2008, following a widely publicized mental health crisis, and she's remained in it ever since. 

Conservatorships fall into two categories. In a "conservatorship of the person," whoever is in charge gets to make decisions about where you live, what you're allowed to do, and what kind of medical treatment you get. In a "conservatorship of the estate," whoever is in charge gets to make decisions about how your money is spent. Spears is the subject of both types of conservatorships, which have long been overseen by her father, Jamie Spears.

For about a year now, Britney Spears has been trying to have her father removed as her conservator in both categories, with no luck. But in November, at Spears' request, a California court appointed Bessemer Trust—an investment and wealth management firm—as the co-conservator of her estate, forcing Jamie Spears to work with them in managing her money. 

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That brings us to what happened on Thursday. The reason for the hearing was that Jamie Spears had raised a handful of minor objections about the wording of an agreement between him and Bessemer Trust, arguing that it went too far in lessening his control over his daughter's estate. But Judge Brenda Penny denied those objections, Variety reports

In effect, nothing has changed: The judge essentially decided that the November ruling, which was in itself a small victory for Spears, still stands. Jamie Spears and Bessemer trust are still working together to manage Britney Spears' money, and Jamie remains in charge of her person.

Britney Spears' attorney, Samuel Ingham III, signaled that he's still interested in cutting her father out of the conservatorship entirely. "It’s no secret that my client does not want her father as co-conservator," he said in court, according to Variety. "But we recognize that removal is a separate issue." To move forward, he would have to file a petition to remove Jamie Spears from the conservatorship—something he did in November, to no avail, but hasn't done again since. 

If Britney Spears' attorney files that petition down the line, and Judge Penny sides with him, the pop star's fans will have a real reason to celebrate. For now, however, it seems as if they've broken out the champagne too early. 

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