Pop star Britney Spears showed up for a remote court hearing Wednesday to fight against her father’s continued reign over her financial, medical, and personal affairs. One celebrity lawyer says based on what’s publicly known, the 13-year-old arrangement known as a conservatorship does not make sense.
"I'm assuming that there is some private information that would explain it, but from what we know, as just normal watchers, it makes no sense," Los Angeles-based attorney Christopher Melcher told Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday.
The star's father, James Spears, petitioned a court for conservatorship in 2008 amid concerns over his adult daughter's public struggles with her mental health. That year, the then-26-year-old Spears was placed on a psychiatric hold in a hospital two times in one month, Reuters reported at the time. As part of the conservatorship granted by a judge, James Spears has controlled his daughter's nearly $60 million fortune.
“I just want my life back,” Spears, now 39, told a Los Angeles County judge, during Wednesday's hearing.
Speaking to the court, Spears said that the conservatorship had required her to maintain IUD birth control, to take bipolar medication known as lithium, and to perform against her will. “I’m not here to be anyone’s slave,” Spears told Judge Brenda Penny.
Spears called her father’s control abusive, accusing him of failing to carry out his legal duties. The star asked that her father be removed as conservator but did not go so far as to request to terminate the conservatorship itself.
“My dad and anyone involved in this conservatorship, and my management who played a key role in punishing, ma’am, they should be in jail,” Spears said during the hearing, which attracted widespread attention, including from activists who want to #FreeBritney.
'Placing control over an adult who is unable to care for themselves'
Speaking to Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday, Melcher, the celebrity lawyer, said the legal restrictions on Spears extend beyond her finances, to her person. That means to some degree, depending on the order, the conservator can control where she can go and who she can see. As for restrictions on her finances, he said, Spears can be barred from entering into contracts and from working.
“All those types of things that we would normally do for ourselves in a financial sense, would also be controlled by the conservator,” Melcher said, adding that only a court can undo the arrangement.
“A conservatorship is placing control over an adult who is unable to care for themselves, or resist fraud, undue influence, usually because of some developmental disability, or maybe severe mental illness, that they need somebody else to protect them,” Melcher said.
It's unclear why Spears has remained under conservatorship for more than a decade.
“With Britney, we certainly saw her in crisis 10 years ago — she needed help. And so the conservatorship may have been appropriate at that time,” Melcher said.
'Work is a high function'
Speaking to the court on Wednesday, Spears pointed out that she shouldn't be in a conservatorship if she can work. That work has included a four-year residency in Los Vegas that began in 2013 and grossed nearly $138 million, according to Billboard.
“Work is a high function, and so someone who's able to go out and do a Las Vegas residency, I don't know why they would need a conservatorship. So, that's a bit of a mystery to us because we don't have all the information,” he said. “My test would be, you should know within minutes of talking to somebody that they are unable to care for themselves. It should be that obvious.”
Melcher said, so far, no public allegations have been made claiming financial wrongdoing by Spears’ father. Her celebrity status, he said, makes it complicated for her to advocate for herself because unless a court holds hearings outside of public view, she is forced to air more highly personal information.
“Although this is all well-intentioned to get this information out there, we're also putting her in a bind to either have to speak publicly about it and disclose all these things and the reasons why she may want a conservatorship to on go or to end, and I just don't think that that's healthy for her,” Melcher said.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.