Britney Spears’ conservatorship case prompts bipartisan Free Britney bill – CNBC

Singer Britney Spears attends the Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Lester Cohen | BBMA2016 | Getty Images

In the wake of Britney Spears’ battle to end her years-long conservatorship, two members of the House of Representatives have proposed a bill that aims to protect Spears and other individuals under legal conservatorships or guardianships.

Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Florida., and Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., introduced the bipartisan “Free Britney Act” on Tuesday. 

The announcement comes a week after a judge ruled that the 39-year-old pop star is permitted to hire her own lawyer to challenge her conservatorship. 

“Abusive conservatorships can be an unending nightmare, and tragically we don’t know how many people are being held captive against their will under the broken guardianship system,” Crist said in a statement on Tuesday. “We do know, however, that we need federal safeguards to protect persons under guardianship from abuse and exploitation.”

If passed into law, the “Free Britney Act” would give individuals under a legal conservatorship or guardianship the right to ask for their court-appointed private guardian to be replaced with a public guardian who is “free from financial conflicts of interest.” 

Current laws require individuals to prove in court that fraud or abuse has occurred for a guardian to be replaced. 

The bill would also assign an independent caseworker to individuals under a conservatorship or guardianship. The caseworker would be required to disclose their finances to ensure there is no conflict of interest, and would monitor for signs of abuse in a conservatorship. 

States would also be required to provide an up to date database on how many individuals are under legal guardianships or conservatorships, according to the bill. 

Spears’ legal effort to end her conservatorship gained traction following the February release of The New York Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears.” The documentary centers around the so-called Free Britney movement and her struggles under her court-ordered conservatorship, which gave her father broad control over her life and finances after it was approved in 2008.  

An estimated 1.3 million adults in the U.S. are under similar restrictive arrangements, according to the statement introducing the bill. 

Conservatorships appoint another person to manage the financial or personal decisions of an individual who is deemed unable to care for themselves. The arrangements are typically used for individuals with mental instability or dementia.

Spears’ conservatorship is notable given how young she was when it was imposed and how long it lasted.

“In some cases, conservatorships can rob capable and innocent Americans of their money, careers, and even basic human rights, like the right to reproduce in Spears case,” Mace said in a statement. 

Spears began the process to remove her father from her conservatorship last year, but her request was denied by the court. She has claimed that her father has used the arrangement for personal gains, which he publicly denied. 

In a hearing last month, Spears called the conservatorship “abusive” and pleaded with a judge to end the arrangement. She described how she had been forced to perform and use birth control despite wanting a child.

On Tuesday, Mace thanked Spears for “her courage” in coming forward about her conservatorship experience and bringing light to the abuse that can occur under such court-ordered arrangements. 

“Britney Spears’ conservatorship is a nightmare. If it can happen to her, it can happen to anyone. Conservatorships undoubtedly protect countless vulnerable Americans from abuse, but the case of Britney Spears reveals a darker side to a system meant to protect people,” Mace said in the statement.

Spears said in an Instagram post on Tuesday that she will continue to speak out against her conservatorship. 

“I will never be able to let go and fully move on until I’ve said all I needed to say … and I’m not even close !!!!” she said.

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