Congressman Matt Gaetz Champions #FreeBritney Movement in Congress, Leads Judiciary Colleagues in Calling for Conservatorship Hearing
Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) and House Judiciary Ranking Member Jim Jordan (OH-04) led a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, requesting that the House Judiciary Committee convene a hearing to review and examine the plight of Americans trapped unjustly in conservatorships.
Congressman Gaetz’s letter follows explosive reporting in a New York Times documentary about pop singer Britney Spears’s allegedly abusive conservatorship, which gives her father control of her multi-million-dollar assets, despite Ms. Spears’ ability to competently control her actions and estate.
“If the conservatorship process 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,” said Congressman Gaetz.
Earlier today, Vanity Fair published exclusive remarks from Congressman Gaetz advocating for the Free Britney movement, which can be found HERE.
Full text of the letter sent to Chairman Nadler may be found HERE and below.
The Honorable Jerrold L. Nadler
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Nadler:
The House Committee on the Judiciary is charged with safeguarding the rights afforded to Americans by the U.S. Constitution. These rights include having the free will to guide one’s own affairs and the legal autonomy over one’s own finances. When situations suggest the unjust deprivation of those rights by the government, we have an obligation to conduct oversight and explore potential remedies.
In recent years, there has been growing public concern about the use of conservatorships to effectively deprive individuals of personal freedoms at the behest of others through the manipulation of the courts. A project funded by the U.S. Department of Justice to examine conservator exploitation found that “financial exploitation by conservators often goes unchecked by courts” and there is a “dire need for guardianship/conservatorship reform.”
Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union recently voiced that “conservatorships should be viewed with skepticism and used as a last resort” but that in “most cases, it’s done routinely and without substantive engagement.” The ACLU is concerned that individuals are being “stripped of virtually all of their civil rights through guardianships and conservatorships” and has called for the exploration of reforms to ensure that unnecessary conservatorships can be terminated so these individuals may “direct their own lives.” The most striking example is perhaps the case of multi-platinum performing artist Britney Spears.
Since 2008, Ms. Spears has been under a court-ordered conservatorship. The facts and circumstances giving rise to this arrangement remain in dispute but involve questionable motives and legal tactics by her father and now-conservator, Jamie Spears.
In court appearances in August and November of 2020, Ms. Spears’ attorney represented to the court that that Ms. Spears “strongly opposed” having her father as a conservator, that she was afraid of her father, and that she would not again perform publicly so long as this arrangement persisted. Despite these pleas, Mr. Spears remains a conservator of her estate. Despite Mr. Spears’s claiming to want nothing more than to see Ms. Spears “not need a conservatorship,” his attorney admitted in a recent documentary, “Of the cases I’ve been involved in, I have not seen a conservatee who has successfully terminated a conservatorship.”
Ms. Spears is not alone. There are countless other Americans unjustly stripped of their freedoms by others with little recourse. For example, Long Island resident Daniel Gross was forced against his will into a conservatorship after being hospitalized with cellulitis while visiting his daughter in Connecticut. In what the judge labeled as “a terrible miscarriage of justice,” Mr. Gross was locked in a Connecticut nursing home for 10 months despite his pleas for release.
Given the constitutional freedoms at stake and opaqueness of these arrangements, it is incumbent upon our Committee to convene a hearing to examine whether Americans are trapped unjustly in conservatorships.
We look forward to hearing from you on this important issue.
Jim Jordan Matt Gaetz
Ranking Member Member of Congress