LOS ANGELES — Britney Spears' conservatorship is being suspended effective Wednesday, Judge Brenda J. Penny ruled in a Los Angeles Superior Court hearing to determine control of the pop singer's estate and personal life.
Attorneys for Britney Spears and her father Jamie Spears, who has been her conservator since Feb. 2008, both argued in favor of terminating the conservatorship. But Wednesday's ruling delays it for 30 to 45 days, effectively requiring Jamie Spears to turn over all conservator assets to a temporary conservator, CPA John Zabel, who was named on Wednesday.
In her ruling, Judge Penny said, "The current situation is not tenable, and the pleadings reflect a toxic environment."
While Zabel will take over the role of temporary conservator of the singer's estate, Jodi Montgomery will continue serving as temporary conservator of her person. The judge extended both appointments through Dec. 31, but they could be ended before then if the conservatorship is terminated prior to that date.
The judge will consider some final accounting issues on Dec. 8, including payments to former court-appointed Spears attorney Samuel Ingham III.
Britney Spears herself has not directly commented on the decision. But shortly after the court hearing, she posted a video and pictures on Instagram showing her behind the controls of a small airplane, writing, "On cloud 9 right now!!!"
Britney Spears' attorney, Mathew Rosengart, had argued that her estate "is being damaged every day, every hour by his presence." He said Jamie Spears has been "cruel, toxic and abusive" — including financially. "He takes more money from her estate each month than he allows her to have."
Since the last hearing in the case, in July, three documentaries about the conservatorship have been released, including one by the New York Times that alleged the singer was under surveillance by a security firm her father had hired. The surveillance monitored her phone calls, text messages and emails and also secretly recorded audio in her bedroom, all of which the singer was paying for through the conservatorship.
The hearing took place as legions of supporters wearing pink and waving Free Britney signs amassed outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles.
The hearing marks the culmination of a drawn-out battle over the conservatorship the 39-year-old singer has been under since Feb. 2008, when a California judge granted her father oversight of her finances and personal life, citing the singer’s mental health concerns and potential substance abuse. Spears’ estate is estimated to be worth $60 million.
In a June hearing, Spears spoke publicly about the arrangement for the first time and accused her 69-year-old father of conservator abuse. At the time, she said she had been forced to use a birth-control device, was drugged with a medication intended to treat bipolar disorder and was forced to work against her will.
Following that hearing, Spears was able to hire an attorney of her own choosing for the first time since the conservatorship was established and the court assigned her legal representation. She has since hired Mathew Rosengart to represent her.
Last week, Rosengart called for a temporary, short-term conservator to replace Jamie Spears until the conservatorship is terminated in full later this fall. He has also requested a future hearing on financial issues with the conservatorship, claiming it’s been mismanaged under Spears’ father.
Jamie Spears has maintained for years that the conservatorship was voluntary and necessary, but on Sept. 7, he filed documents with the court requesting the conservatorship be terminated. He has balked, however, at his immediate removal or suspension as conservator. His reason is primarily financial, many legal analysts believe. Spears has incurred $1.3 million in legal fees fighting his removal as conservator.