LOS ANGELES — A judge ruled on Wednesday that Britney Spears won't be forced to sit for a deposition by her father's attorney to provide testimony about the allegations of misconduct she's lodged against her dad and the rest of her family.
It was a victory for the pop star, whose attorney argued a deposition would only "retraumatize" her, as her legal team investigates allegations that Jamie Spears and his associates mismanaged her affairs. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny said questioning Britney Spears about the conservatorship under oath would be "unlikely to produce any discoverable information" and would concern issues that Spears likely "lacks firsthand information" about.
"While Mr. Spears has refuted a number of the allegations ... conducting a deposition ... is irrelevant to and outside the scope of" the pending issues before the court, Penny said.
The ruling came as the court works through several issues that have been languishing on the court's docket since Spears's conservatorship was terminated in November 2021. Though the now-40-year-old singer is no longer living under the legal arrangement that allowed her father Jamie Spears to control her life and career for nearly 14 years, the court still has to resolve disagreements over how her money was spent.
Earlier this month, Penny ordered Jamie Spears to sit for a deposition in Los Angeles by Aug. 12 after finding that he failed to appear for several previously scheduled examinations, according to court documents. She also ruled that he must provide all documents and communications regarding the alleged surveillance apparatus uncovered by the New York Times' Controlling Britney Spears documentary last year. According to the Times, Jamie Spears monitored all communication on his daughter's phone and instructed her security team to place an audio recorder in her bedroom.
Jamie Spears has denied the allegations, saying in court documents last month that he "never conducted or authorized any surveillance of Britney's bedroom at any time." Rosengart and his team have been investigating the allegations as part of their larger query into Jamie Spears's actions as conservator.
During the hearing, the pop star's attorney Mathew Rosengart questioned her father's decency for trying to compel her to also sit for a deposition.
“Whether he believes it or not, whether he accepts it or not, his daughter feels traumatized by what she went through at his hands for more than a decade,” Rosengart said.
He added that while Jamie Spears is “free to believe” that his daughter is lying about what she experienced, “she isn’t.”
“What would a decent father do under those circumstances," Rosengart said. “He would say, 'that is what my daughter, my flesh and blood, believes,' ... and accept the court's ruling."
He added that if it's true that Jamie Spears loves his daughter, he should have withdrawn his motion long ago.
"It's what a decent father would do," Rosengart said.
In response, Jamie Spears's attorney Alex Weingarten took aim at what he described as "theatrics" and "ad hominem attacks," saying that Rosengart's comments were "not directed at the court," but rather to "the media."
As has been the case since Britney Spears publicly denounced the conservatorship as "abusive" in an explosive hearing in June 2021, reporters and fans who rallied to #FreeBritney packed the downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Wednesday afternoon.
"We are not here to relitigate whether the conservatorship should have existed," Weingarten said, adding that his client was "proud" of what he did for his daughter. "He did nothing wrong."
On Wednesday, Penny also granted a motion by Rosengart to quash a subpoena issued to a consultant he hired as part of the investigation into Jamie Spears's handling of his daughter's affairs. The subpoena, which was sent by Jamie Spears and his counsel, sought business records from Kroll Associates, the firm of Sherine Ebadi, a former FBI special agent who corroborated the surveillance allegations reported by the Times.
Penny said that as a consultant Kroll is protected by attorney-client privilege and that the inclusion of Ebadi's declaration in a January 2022 court filing objecting to Jamie Spears’s request that his daughter continue to pay his legal fees did not constitute a waiver of the legal protection.
Penny also issued a tentative ruling granting in part and denying in part a motion by Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, the company Jamie Spears hired to manage his daughter's business, to quash subpoenas that Rosengart had sent the company and one of its employees, Robin Greenhill. According to the Times, Greenhill played a key role in the alleged surveillance apparatus. Attorneys for Greenhill and the company have said no one at Tri Star ever suggested monitoring Spears's communications nor was anyone aware of her bedroom allegedly being bugged.
Penny will continue to hear arguments on Tri Star's motion on Aug. 24 before issuing a final ruling. The court was also expected to consider pending petitions to pay the attorneys who represented her father during the conservatorship, as well as the 2019 accounting report for her estate, but it ran out of time to address those issues on Wednesday. No new date was immediately scheduled to deal with them.
"It was another excellent day for Britney Spears and justice," Rosengart told reporters after the hearing.