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Victory for Britney Spears: Singer can hire her own lawyer, LA court rules

Her new representative is expected to seek the end of the singer's 13-year conservatorship.

Good news for Britney Spears. The singer, who's involved in a tangled battle over her conservatorship, can hire her own attorney going forward, a Los Angeles judge said on Wednesday.  According to The New York Times, Judge Brenda Penny approved a request by attorney Mathew S. Rosengart, whom the paper describes as "a prominent Hollywood lawyer and former federal prosecutor," to represent the 39-year-old Spears. A source told the Times that Rosengart will push for the end of the controversial conservatorship.

Spears passionately spoke out in court in June, calling the conservatorship "abusive" and saying it was doing her more harm than good.

Complex case history

Back in 2008, a judge appointed attorney Samuel D. Ingham to represent Spears. On Wednesday, Judge Penny approved Ingham's recent request to resign. This came after Spears' own court testimony questioned whether Ingham had done enough to educate her about the conservatorship.

"I didn't know I could petition the conservatorship to be ended," Spears said in June. "I'm sorry for my ignorance, but I honestly didn't know that." 

Spears' longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, also resigned recently. Rudolph said he hadn't communicated with the singer in over two years and that he believed Spears planned to retire from entertainment.

Can't get IUD removed

During that June hearing, the singer painted a bleak picture of her life since her father, Jamie Spears, was appointed her conservator in 2008

"I've told the world I'm happy and OK," the singer said. But that cheery public image was a lie, she added. "I'm traumatized. I'm not happy, I can't sleep ... I'm so angry it's insane."

Spears also said that the conservatorship's control of her life went well beyond her finances. She said she has an IUD birth control device, and even though she wants to have more children, she can't get permission to have a doctor remove it. She also said that her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, isn't even able to drive her places.

Jamie Spears still involved

Despite Spears' impassioned plea, on July 1, Judge Penny confirmed that Jamie Spears' role as co-conservator will remain in place, at least for now.

In response to a petition filed by Ingham in 2020, the judge declined to remove Jamie Spears as conservator, and re-confirmed this decision in further documentation as recently as June 30.

The documentary series

Though Spears' conservatorship began back in 2008, public attention was stirred up earlier this year when a Spears-focused episode of the documentary series The New York Times Presents came out on Feb. 5.

The hour-plus show, Framing Britney Spears, has "generally favorable" reviews on CNET sister site Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times critic Richard Roeper calls it "a thought-provoking retrospective on Spears' life and career, up to and including the conservatorship battle as Spears continues to fight her father in court."

The filmmakers contacted Spears and her family for interviews, the show's credits reveal, but none ended up in the film. However, friends, supporters, former employees and reporters all speak on camera about Spears' life, career and the campaign to end or adjust her conservatorship. 

The New York Times Presents Framing Britney Spears is available on FX and FX on Hulu. You can watch it on streaming service Hulu, on the FX cable channel, or on FX's website as long as you pay for a cable subscription that includes FX, or subscribe to a streaming bundle that includes the channel.

The official FX YouTube channel has also been exceptionally free with clips from the show, if you don't mind getting highlights in two-minute video blocks.

Some fans support a movement they dub #FreeBritney, hoping social media pressure will convince the courts to release the now-39-year-old singer from the legal arrangement. Things seem to be moving in that direction.

Britney basics

If you've somehow managed to get to 2021 without ever hearing of Britney Spears, here's the briefest of rundowns. Spears was just 11 in 1992 when she was cast on The Mickey Mouse Club. Her debut album, 1999's ...Baby One More Time, sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and is one of the best-selling albums of all time. She's won a Grammy Award, six MTV Video Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There's no question she's one of the best-selling, best-earning and most-searched stars of all time.

But her personal life has often outshone her career successes. She wed childhood friend Jason Alexander in 2004 and that marriage was annulled after just 55 hours. She later starred in a reality show, Britney and Kevin: Chaotic, with eventual husband Kevin Federline -- whose girlfriend was still pregnant with his child when he started dating Spears. Spears and Federline had two sons of their own, and she later lost custody of both of them, with the couple's various parental battles always making news. 

Her mental health and other struggles became excruciatingly public: In 2007, Spears shaved her head, reportedly saying she was "tired of people touching me." But public sympathy often seemed to favor Spears, who came off as a troubled young woman who found fame and fortune too early and was understandably unable to cope with it.