A bipartisan pair of lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that aims to make it easier for people under conservatorships, like the singer Britney Spears, to ask a judge to replace their conservator ― the person who is legally charged with making decisions for them.
The bill’s official name is the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, but Reps. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who introduced the legislation, have nicknamed it the “Free Britney” Act, in a reflection of the growing public outrage over the singer’s situation.
The pair of lawmakers agreed on one word to describe Spears’ conservatorship: “nightmare.”
“If it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone,” Mace said Tuesday.
If passed, the legislation could help Spears wriggle out of the legal arrangement that has put strict limits on her personal freedoms for 13 years. It would allow anyone under a conservatorship to request that their private conservator be replaced with a public conservator without needing to prove any misconduct had taken place. It would also assign independent caseworkers to monitor conservatorships for signs of abuse, and provide more transparency around the arrangements.
Crist summarized the bill in a statement by saying it provides Americans an “escape hatch out of abusive guardianships.”
He noted that “tragically we don’t know how many people are being held captive against their will” under current systems, which vary by state. However, Mace’s office estimated the number of people in conservatorships of any stripe to be about 1.3 million nationwide.
Spears has been campaigning to remove her father, James “Jamie” Spears, from the legal arrangement that was set up to control her estate and personal well-being in 2008, after a series of mental health struggles that played out publicly.
Last month, the singer told a California judge that she previously did not know she had the right to petition the court to end the arrangement completely. She said she wished to do so as soon as possible, alleging that it was preventing her from exercising many personal freedoms.
Her shocking remarks to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny highlighted the potential for abuse in conservatorships. The arrangements are meant for people who do not have the mental or physical capacity to care for themselves ― usually the elderly or infirm. However, since her conservatorship was established, Spears has given hundreds of performances, earning millions of dollars to support herself, her family, her staff and fellow performers.
Spears was permitted last week to hire a new attorney she chose by herself, marking the first time she has had a say in her legal representation in more than a decade. The new attorney, Mathew Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, vowed Monday to “aggressively and expeditiously” end Spears’ father’s involvement with the conservatorship, as a first step.