KNEWZ OPINION: Did The New York Times ‘Save’ Britney?

© EMG, INC

By alang.consultant

NEW YORK (KNEWZ) —On Friday Sept. 25, Hulu streamed “The New York Times Presents: Saving Britney Spears.” It would be an understatement to say that this was a blockbuster production, yet it’s fitting that such a big expose may have come to the rescue of one of the world’s biggest stars.

The 70-minute documentary chronicles the life and times of Britney Spears since 2008 – the time she became a conservatee under California law. This documentary both confirms ideas that many had about the reality of Britney’s conservatorship as well as dispels certain myths about the conditions she has ensured over the past 13 years. What this documentary very well may do is help Britney free herself from the conservatorship as well as provide a sense check as to the realities endured by more women placed under a conservatorship against their will.

It is important to remember that the law does not equate documentaries with evidence, even when they are made by comparatively reliable sources such as the New York Times. However, what is important here, is that each of the individuals who took part in the film could repeat what they said before a judge in a hearing to end the Spears conservatorship. Whether they will be willing to do so under oath in a court of law remains to be seen, but even if a relatively small percentage of people who appeared in the film we’re willing to provide evidence to the court, it could be remarkably powerful.

Having viewed the documentary, it is difficult to ascertain through a legal lens which of the claims set forth could be the most damaging to those seeking to retain the conservatorship. At one point, the person who was essentially the project manager and jack of all trades for the security company that watched Britney Spears 24 hours a day, revealed that part of security‘s job was to hand Britney her medication and ensure that she consumed it in front of them.

The individual kept referring to the fact that this was very clear instructions from the client. When pressed by the New York Times filmmaker, that person revealed that the client was in fact Jamie Spears, Britney’s father and conservator.

Another piece of potentially very damning evidence that was revealed during the documentary was hypothesized by many observers of Britney Spears’ career, but was confirmed in the documentary. Not long after the conservatorship went into effect, Britney Spears embarked on a $100 million plus tour. Jamie Spears, as conservator, was drawing a $16,000 monthly salary for his services as conservator, but also still had a deal in place through which he was enriched by a percentage of the tour’s earnings.

From a legal lens, this is absolutely a conflict of interest for a conservator. Per Rule 7.1059 of the California Rules of Court, a conservator “must avoid actual conflicts of interest and, consistent with his or her fiduciary duty to the conservatee.” While many of the things a conservator does, particularly when they are a family member, may begin to fall into a bit of a gray area, where a conservator forces the conservatee into what can easily be characterized here as a form of forced labor, and is enriched by a percentage of revenue created by said labor, this is something that the court will not look generously upon in a review of the evidence.

The final major revelation from the film that should speak to the need to end the conservatorship is the role of the security company in monitoring, assessing, and controlling all of the people in Britney‘s life.

In 70 minutes of profoundly disturbing revelations, this could have been the most disturbing. Allegedly, the security company was charged with knowing and monitoring, 24 hours a day, anyone with whom Britney had contact. This included anybody she would bring into her bedroom for the purpose of intimacy. Again, the client, Jamie Spears, was alleged to have charged the security company with keeping anyone who the conservatorship deemed as a bad influence away from Britney. Well this would obviously catch people who could indeed be a bad influence on a celebrity of Britney‘s stature, fishing with such a wide net would also catch people and remove them from her life who were genuinely concerned with Britney‘s welfare and who may have been in opposition to the conservatorship.

It is clear that both social media and traditional media will reverberate over the next days and weeks from the revelations of this truly excellent New York Times documentary.

With the next court hearing set for this week, September 29, Judge Brenda J. Penny could now be faced with a truly overwhelming task. While the court was set to look at both Britney‘s motion to remove Jamie spears as conservator as well as examine in greater detail Jamie Spears’ supposed desire to end the conservatorship, things are bound to be far more complicated and take longer in part as a result of the revelations within this documentary.

Fair warning to anyone expecting a quick resolution to the Britney Spears situation – particularly in light of what we now understand to be the corroborated claims of such severe misconduct of the conservator and others involved in the conservatorship, this may end up having many layers for the court to peel away before making any final decisions.

Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst forEsquire Digital and the Editor of Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in CBS News, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed,Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Yahoo!,ABA Journal,Law.com,The Boston Globe, and many other leading publications.