Rep. Gaetz Says Focus on Conservatorship More Than 'Free Britney'
Rep. Matt Gaetz, who, along with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has gotten involved in the #FreeBritney movement in support of Britney Spears by writing a letter demanding a hearing from the House Judiciary Committee on the issue of court-ordered conservatorship, said Thursday their call is not just about the pop star's legal difficulties but about the overall situation on a national level.
"There are millions of Americans who suffer from guardianship and conservatorship abuse in this country," the Florida Republican said on Fox News' "America's Newsroom." "One of the things we do is to convene to discuss due process rights and constitutional rights of our fellow Americans. I think we should look at whether or not wards who are subject to this type of control from another human being ought to be entitled to a bill of rights where they can get an accounting, where they have the right to vote. The opportunity for review."
Spears' father Jamie Spears has fired back at the lawmakers through his attorney, insisting that he has carried out his duties and that the singer "knows that her daddy loves her."
Jamie Spears has had control of his daughter's assets since 2008, and his attorney, Vivian Thoreen, said in a statement that "any time Britney wants to end her conservatorship, she can ask her lawyer to file a petition to terminate it; she has always had this right but in 13 years has never exercised it."
"What you see from Jamie Spears is quintessential abuser pathology," Gaetz claimed Thursday. "They say it's a consequence of their love that they're abusive and the other person needs it and for their benefit. The reality is the pleadings in this case belie what James Spears said. She sought additional control for others over her finances. Jamie has filed objections to judicial orders to limit his powers and give more powers to professional conservators."
He added that the issue of conservatorship is often a problem in his state, where elderly citizens often find themselves under the control of others.
"If someone is in their 80s and 90s and losing their faculties, their families get them in a guardianship or conservatorship," Gaetz said. "There is almost no opportunity ever for someone to rehabilitate out of that circumstance to regain control over their life and over their finances. I saw this as a Florida state legislator when I served on the Judiciary Committee there."
He said he hopes Congress can inspire better action than has been taken at the state level.
"In some cases we may need to give access to federal courts to people whose due process rights are being deprived," said Gaetz. "Right now the federal courthouse door is closed to people who are seeing their due process violated. We should analyze whether or not that policy change should occur."
In his letter, the lawmaker said that if the process of conservatorship can "rip the agency from a woman who was in the prime of her life and one of the most powerful pop stars in the world, imagine what it can do to people who are less powerful and have less of a voice. I've heard the story of those people in Florida, and I am concerned about access to due process for wards."