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Britney Spears' conservatorship is over, but the legal proceedings in its wake have continued. And they're getting even more contentious.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny granted a motion Wednesday to seal the termination plan of the singer's nearly 14-year conservatorship to protect her "right to privacy over her private medical information." Penny also rejected Spears' father's request to reserve funds in the conservatorship, according to court documents reviewed Thursday by The Times.
Those decisions were made during a heated hearing discussing finances and accounting, as well as requests made by several former attorneys to collect legal fees incurred.
Going into the hearing Wednesday, the entertainer's attorney, Mathew Rosengart, who was instrumental in ending her conservatorship in November, rejected the notion that Spears should pay her father Jamie Spears' estimated $30 million in legal bills while he served as her conservator. Rosengart also fervently shut down Jamie's attorney's suggestion to have the entertainer's medical records unsealed.
In court filings, Rosengart fired off a litany of objections to Jamie Spears' requests, accusing him of financial misconduct and other improprieties such as reading his 40-year-old daughter's therapy notes and privileged communications with her lawyers.
The tension continued in the courtroom Wednesday when the attorneys squabbled over purported "lies" that they believe shaped public opinion about the case.
Jamie Spears' attorney, Alex M. Weingarten, accused Rosengart of planting fake stories in the media, Variety reported, an allegation that Rosengart vehemently denied.
Rosengart reportedly asked that Weingarten be admonished: "He has attacked me. He has attacked this court. And it is intolerable," Rosengart said.
Indeed, much of the "... Baby One More Time" hit-maker's case had been shrouded in mystery, but the singer finally spoke up and asserted last summer that she felt constrained and abused under the legal arrangement, which long controlled her day-to-day activities, as well as her finances, for nearly 14 years before it was terminated.
Weingarten in court Wednesday reportedly contended that the conservatorship was put into place because the singer "was irresponsible with her finances." But Penny shut down that declaration, reportedly saying: "Please, let’s not go there. Let’s not go down that road.”
The process of closing the case still seems far from over. Rosengart has asked for an evidentiary hearing on accounting to be scheduled, and new court dates are to be set for issues involving the singer's management, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, and other parties.
The next major hearing in the case has been set for July 27. Others have been scheduled for March 16, April 1 and Dec. 2, according to court records.
Prior to Wednesday's hearing, attorneys for Jamie Spears and ex-wife Lynne Spears filed petitions for payment of attorney fees. Jamie Spears' legal team had argued that his daughter's estate should pay for his legal expenses in order to ensure that the conservatorship is closed out properly and because Jamie had engaged in no wrongdoing.
But in a 256-page objection to Jamie Spears' request filed this week, Rosengart accused Jamie Spears of offenses such as "abuse to conflicts of interest, financial mismanagement and corruption of the conservatorship to implicating state and federal criminal law."
Jamie Spears, the longtime former conservator of the singer's lucrative estate, allegedly paid almost $6 million from Britney's estate to the Black Box Security firm, which obtained private phone records for Britney's mother and others, the New York Times reported.
It also confirmed media reports that Jamie hired Black Box Security to monitor Britney's phone, including her communications with her lawyer, secretly recorded her in her bedroom and obtained GPS “ping data” to track the locations of people close to the singer, the court documents said.
Additionally, a declaration filed for Kroll forensic investigator Sherine Ebadi — a former FBI agent retained by the singer's legal team — corroborated the bombshell allegations made in an FX documentary that Jamie Spears illegally surveilled his daughter and concluded that he could be subject to criminal prosecution. The investigation also identified several instances in which Jamie Spears engaged in financial misconduct, self-dealing and mismanagement as conservator.
In court Wednesday, Rosengart said that the investigation yielded "strong evidence" that Jamie Spears was involved in "very intense and potentially illegal" surveillance of the performer.
The conservatorship case has not only shed light on Britney Spears' legal arrangement but broader issues revolving around conservatorships as a whole. On Wednesday, disability rights groups and members of the viral #FreeBritney Los Angeles chapter joined California Assembly Member Brian Maienschein to promote legislation they say will prioritize less restrictive alternatives to conservatorships and establish greater protections for conservatees.
Wednesday's hearing also took place amid an escalating media feud between Britney and her younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears.
Rosengart sent a cease-and-desist letter to Jamie Lynn, 30, on Monday threatening legal action if she continues to speak about Britney while promoting her new book, "Things I Should Have Said."
Britney has already accused Jamie Lynn of hawking her memoir at Britney's "expense," while the younger Spears continued to give interviews about the tome. Jamie Lynn has claimed that her book "is not about" Britney, but it still references her repeatedly.
The sisters have been trading barbs all week on social media, with Britney lashing out at her sister for publicly discussing their lives and the conservatorship before Britney has had a chance to. (Last week, the Sun reported that Spears might be in talks with Oprah Winfrey for a sit-down interview.)
Rosengart's letter calls the book "ill-timed" and accuses Jamie Lynn of making "misleading or outrageous claims" about Britney. The letter also demands that Jamie Lynn "cease and desist from referencing Britney derogatorily" during her promotional campaign. If she fails to do so or defames the singer, "Britney will be forced to consider and take all appropriate legal action."
"Britney has not read and does not intend to read your book, she and millions of her fans were shocked to see how you have exploited her for monetary gain. She will not tolerate it, nor should she," reads the letter, which was obtained by TMZ and Page Six.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.