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Britney Spears' testimony has opened a divide in her conservatorship team

Spears' coming hearing will have to reconcile a month of filings, some of which have exposed discord among her conservators.
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Britney Spears' rare public testimony sparked rapid change in her case, with numerous filings offered to the court in the three weeks since her last hearing as her conservators address the allegations she submitted to the judge.

Spears told the court on June 23 that she wanted to end her conservatorship without further psychological evaluation, describing the 13-year case as traumatizing and abusive. She described her former psychiatrist as abusive, said she had been forced into inpatient facilities against her will and said her conservators refused to allow her to remove an intrauterine device so she could have more children.

"I'm not lying. I just want my life back. And it's been 13 years. And it's enough. It's been a long time since I've owned my money. And it's my wish and my dream for all of this to end without being tested," she told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny.

The testimony, which was heard by members of the public who registered with the court's remote listening program, has resulted in resignations and new filings that could bring changes for Spears.

Since then, a series of filings have revealed discord among the ranks of her conservators ahead of a new hearing Wednesday.

Two key players resign

Two weeks ago, two important members of Spears' conservatorship team filed their resignations with the court. The first was Bessemer Trust, the financial institution that was assigned to help handle Spears' estate after the court rejected her request to remove her father from the case.

Bessemer said in its petition that it entered into the conservatorship because it "relied on the representations of the parties that the ongoing Conservatorship was voluntary." Bessemer said that it is now aware that Spears "objects to the continuance of her Conservatorship and desires to terminate the Conservatorship" and that it respects her wishes.

Bessemer cited Spears' testimony June 23 in its reasoning.

A few days later, Samuel D. Ingham III, who has been Spears' court-appointed attorney since 2008, said he was resigning in court documents. Spears told the court that she wanted the right to retain her own attorney.

Spears also alleged that Ingham hadn't informed her of her right to petition to end the conservatorship and that he advised her against speaking out against her conservators.

Image: #FreeBritney Supporters Rally in Los Angeles
#FreeBritney activists gather outside court to show support for Britney Spears and protest against her conservatorship during a conservatorship hearing in Los Angeles on June 23.Roger Kisby / Redux file

A divide opens between conservators

Spears' father, James "Jamie" Spears, filed a request for an investigation into his daughter's allegations within days of her testimony. Jamie Spears has been one of her conservators since the case began in 2008, after she was involuntary hospitalized twice. Britney Spears said in court that she wanted her father removed from the conservatorship; he has insisted that he only had his daughter's best interest at heart.

The same day Jamie Spears filed his request to "investigate the veracity of the allegations and claims made by Ms. Spears," his team filed a separate motion that cast suspicion on co-conservator Jodi Montgomery.

Montgomery has been assigned as Spears' conservator-of-the-person since 2019, overseeing her daily activity and medical needs.

Jamie Spears said that he was "concerned about the management and care of his daughter" and that Montgomery did "not reflect her wishes." His petition said Montgomery has been the sole arbiter of his daughter's personal life and medical treatment since she was appointed.

Montgomery — who has asked to be reimbursed for security expenses because of death threats she received following Britney Spears' testimony — rejected Jamie Spears' allegations in a response petition Friday.

"The mud-slinging by Mr. Spears and his new 'It wasn't me!' strategy — after being her sole or co-conservator for more than 13 years — leaves Ms. Montgomery no other choice but to defend herself," the filing said.

The filing said Jamie Spears has been cut off from communicating with his daughter for nearly two years, at Britney Spears' request, and can't possibly know what her wishes are. Britney Spears wants Montgomery to stay on and is desperate to have her father removed from her case, the petition said.

Montgomery said that Jamie Spears' request for an investigation was a "thinly veiled attempt to use his daughter's money to defend himself" and that the court annually investigates the conservatorship as part of state probate law. The filing goes on to say that while Jamie Spears says he wants to follow his daughter's wishes, he has never relinquished his power over her.

Montgomery's filing pushes back against any accusation that she left Jamie Spears out of medical decisions or the idea that he was ignorant about decisions that were being made. It said some of Britney Spears' allegations arose from a rejection of financial approval for her care, which went through her father.

"Mr. Spears points fingers at Ms. Montgomery, implying that for the last 21 months he has had absolutely no involvement in Ms. Spears' day-to-day personal care and medical treatment," the petition said. "But this ignores the simple fact that everything costs money. Because Ms. Montgomery does not have any power or authority over Ms. Spears' money, every expenditure made by Ms. Montgomery for Ms. Spears had to be first approved by Mr. Spears as the Conservator of the Estate."

New filings support Spears' independence

Among the flurry of filings since Spears testified are indications of support from her mother, Lynne Spears, and Montgomery to help end the conservatorship. Attorneys for Lynne Spears prepared a filing asking the court to respect her daughter's wishes to retain her own counsel. Britney Spears is well enough to care for herself and should have permission to hire her own attorney to handle her conservatorship, her mother's motion said.

"Now, and for the past many years, Conservatee is able to care for her person and in fact has, inside of the parameters of this conservatorship, earned literally hundreds of millions of dollars as an international celebrity. ... Her capacity is certainly different today than it was in 2008, and Conservatee should no longer be held to the 2008 standard, whereby she was found to 'not have the capacity to retain counsel,'" the motion said.

Montgomery also filed statements of support for Spears' right to retain a private attorney over a new court-appointed lawyer. She suggested that the court temporarily assign Spears a guardian ad litem, who would help her choose her own attorney.

The filing implied that it would be a compromise to address concerns that Spears might not have the capacity to pick her own attorney while also respecting her request for one.

Montgomery said Spears has repeatedly and consistently asked for her help to hire a new attorney. Her filing included screenshots of what appear to be redacted text messages between her and Spears, although the contact at the top of the messages is referred to as "Jane Doe."

"Getting you a new attorney, by filing with the court is the best legal approach," one of Montgomery's messages said. "Your dad has excellent attorneys. and you should too."

In addition, Montgomery told the court that she was preparing a new medical care plan that would work toward building Spears' independence. The response to Jamie Spears on Friday briefly mentioned the new plan.

Montgomery "is committed to staying (despite the numerous threats against her) so that she can seek a re-evaluation of the powers and restrictions currently in place in a new Care Plan, with the goal of eventually terminating the conservatorship — a goal that may not necessarily be shared by Mr. Spears and his attorneys," the response said.