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Britney Spears' father criticizes potential replacement for conservatorship

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Britney Spears' father, Jamie Spears, is claiming the man nominated to replace him is not qualified to serve as a conservator of the pop star's estate, according to court documents filed in Los Angeles on Monday.

Britney and her attorney recently nominated John Zabel, a certified public accountant, to replace her father should Jamie Spears step down or be removed from the arrangement. Her father vowed to step down when the "time is right" and said the conservatorship should be terminated soon — something his legal team repeated on Monday.

"There is no need for a temporary conservator because there is no vacancy in the position of conservator," Jamie's attorneys wrote. "Mr. Spears continues to serve faithfully as Conservator of the Estate, as he has done for the past thirteen years. Mr. Spears has not and should not be suspended, especially since the Conservatorship should soon be terminated."

Jamie's attorney said Zabel is not a "licensed professional fiduciary" and does not have the background or experience it takes to manage a $60 million conservatorship. The attorney also claimed Zabel was "scammed" out of $1 million of his own funds in a real estate scheme in 2008.

"This is not a situation where a layperson could step in and learn on the job, as it appears Mr. Zabel would have to do," the filing reads. "Therefore, it would not be in the best interests of the Conservatee for the Court."

Zabel and Britney's attorney did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment. Both parties will be back in court on Wednesday afternoon.

In a separate petition, Jamie's attorney requested the judge presiding over the case, LA Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny, immediately focus on the request to end the conservatorship and have both sides attend a mandatory settlement or private mediation where all of Britney's pending petitions could be settled.

"The last thing this Court or this Conservatee needs or wants would be extended and expensive litigation over pending or final accounts and fee petitions," the filing reads. "There may be some issues to resolve, but despite the unfounded arguments of Conservatee's new counsel, Mr. Spears does not believe that they are numerous or complicated. If the parties were directed to attend a Mandatory Settlement Conference, or in the alternative a private mediation, and everyone would act in good faith, Mr. Spears believes that all pending issues could be resolved."

Jamie Spears in 2012 and Britney Spears in 2019. / Credit: AP
Jamie Spears in 2012 and Britney Spears in 2019. / Credit: AP

Britney has spent several years trying to oust her father from his role as conservator. In an explosive June testimony, she called the conservatorship "abusive," saying she felt minimized and her father controlled everything she did.

Recent allegations from the New York Times claim that Jamie was responsible for illegally bugging his daughter's home and personal cellphones to record and monitor her private conversations, including those about the conservatorship. Britney's counsel asked the court to investigate the claims, calling the alleged surveillance "unfathomable" and saying it showed Jamie should be removed from his role as soon as possible.

Jamie's attorneys maintain there is no reason to replace him, saying all the evidence against him is flawed and inadmissible. They also claimed probate investigators have not discovered wrongdoing over the 13 years he served as a conservator.

"It is worth noting that for thirteen years, during the entire course of this conservatorship, probate investigators have conducted regular and recurring investigations based on interviews with numerous individuals, including medical professionals," Monday's filing reads.

"In all that time, to the best of Mr. Spears' knowledge and belief, not a single medical professional nor the report of a single probate investigator has recommended that Mr. Spears' presence as Conservator was harming Ms. Spears or that he should be replaced as Conservator of the Estate."

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