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What to look out for in Britney Spears' conservatorship hearing today

#FreeBritney activists outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse during Spears' hearing in September, when a judge suspended Spears' father from her conservatorship.
Kevin Winter
Getty Images
#FreeBritney activists outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse during Spears' hearing in September, when a judge suspended Spears' father from her conservatorship.

Later today, the streets outside the Stanely Mosk courthouse in Los Angeles are likely to be filled with people waving flags and cheering under the banner of #FreeBritney.

That's because the Britney Spears has a big hearing this afternoon — one that could potentially terminate the pop star's 13-year conservatorship. Big emphasis on the could, though. Here are the major threads to watch out for.

The possibility of a truly #FreeBritney

A quick recap — Britney Spears is under two conservatorships. One is of her estate (her money), and the other is of her person (her health and well being). Her father, James Spears, used to be the conservator of her estate until he was suspended by the judge in the case back in September. That was a major win for Spears, as she's had a fractured relationship with her father, and she said that getting him out of the agreement entirely was her primary goal. The position is now temporarily being held by a certified public accountant named John Zabel.

The conservator of her person is Jodi Montgomery, who, as far as we can glean from court records, has a much better relationship with Britney Spears than the pop star did with her father. Montgomery is currently set to be in her position until the end of the year.

It could be the case that the judge terminates the conservatorship entirely, as requested by Spears and her lawyer, Mathew Rosengart. Or the judge could terminate one arm, but keep the other. Or, set a timeline for the eventual termination of the conservatorship. A lot about this case is unprecedented, so it's impossible to gauge the outcome.

James Spears may no longer be involved in the conservatorship, but he's still being investigated

In court paperwork filed last month it was revealed that Rosengart has begun a discovery process into how Spears has handled his daughter's finances over the years. Rosengart has requested documents regarding the elder Spears' dealings with Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group (the company owned by Britney Spears' former business manager Lou Taylor), as well as any correspondence between James Spears and anyone in Britney Spears' orbit.

For his part, James Spears has actually also asked for the termination of his daughter's conservatorship. He hired a new lawyer, Alex Weingarten, who filed a petition in support of the termination, saying "so it is said in no uncertain terms, Jamie believes that the Conservatorship should end, immediately. Jamie will not seek to continue to serve as Conservator."

Adding, "Jamie has always and will always have Britney's best interests at heart."

In response to this, Rosengart wrote in court filings, "It is of no moment, presently, whether Mr. Spears's reversal was motivated by a desire to bolster his reputation or to avoid his deposition or responding to the outstanding discovery served on him in August."

Conservatorship reform goes mainstream

Advocates have spent years trying to bring attention to abuse and corruption that they say is possible in guardianships. And while there have been previous high profile guardianships (Casey Kasem, Mickey Rooney, Amanda Bynes), none has put the issue into the zeitgeist as much as Britney Spears' case.

Much of this has to do with the grassroots #FreeBritney movement of fans and activists pushing the cause. The messaging has already made its way to potential state-level reforms, as well as onto Capitol Hill.

Pay attention to any of the #FreeBritney rallies and you're bound to hear someone else's story of alleged guardianship abuse. While many of the activists may have found out about the issue through Spears, it's clear that it's has become bigger than her.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.