Britney Spears' mom Lynne speaks out after longtime lawyer asks to quit in conservatorship case
Britney Spears' mother is joining the chorus of voices entering the fray of her conservatorship saga, pleading with the court to allow her daughter to pick a new attorney of her own choice.
The pop star's courtroom denunciation last month of her “abusive” conservatorship, during which she criticized her father, her management and her court-appointed lawyer, led to a dramatic change in her case Tuesday: Her longtime lawyer wants to quit.
Samuel Ingham III asked to resign, according to documents in her Los Angeles probate court file obtained Tuesday by USA TODAY.
Now Britney Spears' mother, Lynne Spears, has petitioned the judge to allow her daughter to hire her own lawyer or that the judge appoint one of her daughter's choosing. Under California law, conservatees don't have the automatic right to hire their own private lawyers. But it can be allowed in some circumstances, such as a proceeding to terminate a conservatorship, as the singer has demanded.
Lynne Spears, who is not part of the conservatorship, argues in the petition, obtained by USA TODAY, that based on Britney Spears' testimony at the June hearing, her daughter has the capacity to make her own decisions and deserves an attorney of her own choice.
"It is self-evident that before the Court addresses, for example, the termination of the
conservatorship, (Britney Spears) must be allowed to consult with counsel of her choosing," her petition reads.
Britney Spears' lawyer asks to quit her conservatorship case after 13 years
Ingham has represented Spears for the past 13 years that she has been under a California conservatorship, or state-appointed guardianship, with no control over her finances and other important life decisions.
If Judge Brenda Penny signs the order, it would become effective only after she appoints a new lawyer for Spears. California law also allows judges to appoint lawyers for conservatees instead of allowing them to appoint their own.
Ingham provided no details of the reason for his resignation in the documents other than "appointment of (new) counsel to represent the conservatee is necessary to protect her interests."
Ingham did not return messages from USA TODAY.
Ingham's move follows a hearing on June 23 in which Britney Spears accused her father, James “Jamie” Spears, co-conservator of her finances, and her "management" of being abusive in controlling her life and career, including such intimate decisions as whether she can remarry or remove her IUD.
Despite her powerful declaration that she wanted the entire conservatorship to end, Britney Spears claimed Ingham never told her she could achieve that goal by filing a petition. She said she didn’t know she had to file a specific document to seek freedom from the constraints on her life that have been in place since 2008 after she suffered a public mental health crisis.
There is no such petition in her public court file. Instead, Ingham has filed in recent weeks only a petition to remove Jamie Spears from her conservatorship, a petition he told the court that Britney Spears sought. Judge Penny last week declined to approve it, at least for the moment.
Ever since Britney Spears' impassioned speech last month, questions have been raised about whether Ingham’s work for her was faulty or inadequate.
Conservator Jodi Montgomery requests 24/7 security, paid for by Spears' estate
Although Jodi Montgomery, conservator of Britney Spears' person, did not respond to questions about Ingham’s desire to resign, her lawyer’s publicist issued a statement Tuesday asserting that Montgomery herself is not resigning from the case. In fact, she said Britney asked her to continue, despite the 39-year-old star's criticisms of Montgomery during her court hearing.
“(Montgomery) remains committed to steadfastly supporting Ms. Spears in every way she can within the scope of her duties as a conservator of the person. Ms. Spears as recently as yesterday has asked Ms. Montgomery to continue to serve. Ms. Montgomery will continue to serve as a conservator for as long as Ms. Spears and the Court desire her to do so,” said the statement issued to USA TODAY by lawyer Lauriann Wright’s publicist, Jack Ketsoyan.
On Wednesday, Montgomery petitioned the court to authorize Britney Spears' estate to pay for 24/7 security for her, citing a "marked increase" in threatening emails, calls, texts and social media posts since the June 23 hearing, which was "illegally broadcasted, streamed and replayed to an incredibly wide audience" in violation of the judge's orders.
According to the petition, obtained by USA TODAY, Montgomery and her lawyer assert many of the messages threaten violence and even death against Montgomery. Although she already has security, she says it needs to be upgraded andshe wants the judge to approve the expense as soon as possible from Britney Spears' estate, now estimated at nearly $60 million.
The petition also included "a true and correct copy of a text message" between Britney Spears and Montgomery, in which she tells Montgomery "I need u to stay as my co conservator of person."
Bessemer Trust asks to withdraw as co-conservator; manager Larry Rudolph resigns
Meanwhile, wealth management firm Bessemer Trust, which was supposed to be co-conservator with her father over her financial affairs, abruptly asked to withdraw from the case last week and was granted permission by Judge Penny. Bessemer requested the change after Britney’s complaints about her conservatorship, citing “changed circumstances,” according to court documents filed Thursday and obtained by USA TODAY.
And on Monday, Britney Spears’ longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, reportedly announced his resignation in a letter to her conservators, citing the pop icon's intent to "officially retire" from music.
Rudolph told her father and Montgomery that he was resigning because he “became aware" of Britney's unhappiness and disinclination to perform under the conservatorship.
The letter was published by Deadline and The Wrap. In it, Rudolph said Britney Spears told him in 2019 that she intended to take an “indefinite work hiatus,” and now that she’s reiterated that desire, she no longer needs a manager. In January 2019, Spears abruptly suspended her Las Vegas residency due to her father's health issues. She has not performed since then.
Last year, she released a deluxe version of her 2016 album, "Glory," which included a new single featuring the Backstreet Boys.
Rudolph and Jamie Spears’ lawyer, Vivian Thoreen, did not return messages from USA TODAY.
Rudolph and Ingham's resignations come on the heels of a stunning investigation published Saturday by Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino for The New Yorker, which provided new details about Britney Spears’ fight to free herself from her restrictive conservatorship. The report alleged she called 911 to report herself a victim of conservatorship abuse, a day before the singer's shocking June 23 court testimony during which she described herself as “traumatized” and “depressed.”
Rudolph, who managed Spears from 1998 to 2004 and again beginning in 2008, stressed in 2019 the need to put her physical and emotional well-being before her career, adding he had no intention of talking her into working if she couldn't handle it.
"I don't want her to work again 'til she's ready, physically, mentally and passionately," he said. "If that time never comes again, it will never come again. I have no desire or ability to make her work again. I am only here for her when she wants to work. And, if she ever does want to work again, I'm here to tell her if it's a good idea or a bad idea."
He added: "I have one role in Britney‘s life. I’m her manager. She calls me if and when she wants to work. Other than that I’m not involved in anything else. Not the conservatorship, not her medical treatment, not her kids. Nothing else."
In his new letter to Spears' conservators, Rudolph again noted he was "never" part of the conservatorship or its operations, which he said meant he is "not privy to many of the details."
"I was originally hired at Britney’s request to help manage and assist her with her career," he wrote. "And as her manager, I believe it is in Britney’s best interest for me to resign from her team as my professional services are no longer needed."
Last week, Judge Penny denied the singer's request to have her father removed as sole conservator for now. A day later, Judge Penny approved wealth management firm Bessemer Trust's petition to resign as co-conservator of Britney Spears' finances alongside her father.
According to the documents, Bessemer Trust said it had believed Spears' conservatorship was "voluntary" and that she consented to the firm acting as co-conservator, until the singer publicly revealed she wants the arrangement to end during the June 23 hearing.
Spears' father and Bessemer Trust had control over her estate, while professional conservator Montgomery has control over her person. The next court hearing in Spears' conservatorship case is set for July 14. The documents filed by Ingham and his law firm on Tuesday, in which they petitioned to be released from their duties and a new lawyer appointed, is likely to be considered by the judge at that hearing.
"I will always be incredibly proud of what we accomplished over our 25 years together," Rudolph concluded in his letter. "I wish Britney all the health and happiness in the world, and I’ll be there for her if she ever needs me again, just as I always have been."
Contributing: Kim Willis, Cydney Henderson and Maeve McDermott