Britney Spears’ dad must stop dodging his pop star daughter and sit for a deposition no later than Aug. 12 to answer questions about his alleged “misconduct” at the helm of her now-terminated conservatorship, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Los Angeles County Judge Brenda Penny said Jamie Spears must travel to Los Angeles for the examination, per the “Toxic” singer’s request. She further ruled Jamie must produce “all documents and communications” sought by his daughter related to his alleged “electronic surveillance” of the superstar — and that Britney is not obligated to answer her dad’s dueling request for “further” document discovery from her.
The trio of decisions marked a sizable victory for the world-famous entertainer, but Judge Penny declined to follow through and issue a fourth ruling in Britney’s favor after sharing a tentative decision in which she outright rejected Jamie’s request to depose Britney. After listening to heated arguments from both sides, Judge Penny said she wanted further briefing on the matter before issuing a final decision at a follow-up hearing July 27.
The pop star’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, argued Jamie’s quest to grill his daughter under oath is “immoral” and amounts to a “revenge deposition.” Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, said Jamie is fair game because “credible evidence” shows he mismanaged Britney’s 13-year conservatorship — which was terminated last November — and oversaw a surveillance program that bugged her bedroom.
When it comes to Britney, however, she’s not someone who has any “firsthand” knowledge of the alleged “serious misconduct,” and she would be “re-traumatized” if forced into a “retaliatory” deposition, Rosengart argued.
“Britney Spears wants to move on with her life,” Rosengart said. “She is free, and Mr. Spears wants to suck her back into this conservatorship for his own improper, immoral, and, we believe, unsupportable reasons.”
Rosengart said his client, who recently married her longtime boyfriend Sam Asghari, has no plans to testify as a witness at an expected evidentiary hearing linked to her pending challenge of Jamie’s request for more money from her estate to pay for his legal fees.
“I know they’re concerned about Instagram posts and a book that she’s writing — but you don’t get to depose somebody [for that],” the lawyer argued in court. “You don’t sit down a victim for a deposition to be deposed by the victimizer. You don’t do that. You don’t do that as a matter of morality. You don’t do that as a matter of equity.” Rosengart added that California’s Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.420 gave the court the authority to protect Britney from “unwarranted annoyance, embarrassment, or oppression, or undue burden and expense.”
Jamie’s lawyer, Alex Weingarten, argued his client had a “fundamental right” to depose his daughter.
“The unequivocal fact here is that Ms. Spears is a party to this litigation. She has filed verified objections both to the accounting and the fee petition. She cannot avoid participating in discovery in this case. It is black-letter law, your honor,” Weingarten argued. “Years ago, when she was in the conservatorship, she resisted being deposed, and the Court of Appeal intervened and said she had to be deposed. I’m at a loss as to how we could be precluded from the opportunity to conduct [this] discovery.”
Weingarten said that, while “it’s in vogue now to trash Mr. Spears,” his client has a right to defend himself. “I suspect Ms. Spears will be a treasure trove of information,” he said.
When Judge Penny issued the ruling that Jamie was not entitled to further written discovery from his daughter, Weingarten turned visibly upset. He asked for a stay in the proceedings to appeal the ruling and requested a “discovery referee” be appointed to step in and “go through” all the document requests. Judge Penny shot him down.
“Why not skip to the phase where we construct gallows?” Weingarten vented, leading Judge Penny to comment that his statement was unwarranted.
After the hearing, Weingarten said he planned to file a writ to immediately appeal the adverse ruling on document discovery.
Rosengart, meanwhile, said he appreciated the court’s rulings.
“Mr. Spears, as the court determined, has now effectively been hiding — hiding from his deposition — for no less than nine months. The day of reckoning for Mr. Spears has come, at least at this stage, in terms of the court ordering him to appear for his deposition,” Rosengart said outside the courtroom. “We’ve seen nothing from but obstruction and stonewalling from him.”
At a hearing last January, Judge Penny said she’d hoped the parties would be largely finished with discovery by July 27 so she could set the dispute for an evidentiary hearing in a trial courtroom. That timetable appeared to be in jeopardy Wednesday.
Britney was freed from her nearly 14-year conservatorship on Nov. 12 after blowing the doors off the legal arrangement with back-to-back statements to Judge Penny in June and July of 2021. In her live addresses heard around the world, the singer said her conservatorship, largely controlled by her father, was “cruel” and “abusive” as it dictated her finances, health care, and personal relationships for most of her adult life.
Once she hired Rosengart, she started her aggressive campaign to investigate claims her dad mismanaged her millions while using “bullying conduct” to keep her in line. To that end, she hired the accounting and intelligence firm Kroll for a forensic review of the controversial conservatorship and filed a sworn statement from Kroll executive and former FBI agent Sherine Ebadi detailing an alleged “pattern of misconduct” raising possible “criminal implications.”
Most notably, Ebadi said she personally debriefed one of Britney’s former security staffers, Alex Vlasov, and found him to be “highly credible.” Vlasov is the whistleblower who previously told the New York Times that he had firsthand knowledge of his ex-boss Edan Yemini, CEO of Black Box Security, placing a secret listening device in Britney’s bedroom and using surveillance technology that captured the singer’s privileged communications with her lawyer.
“Mr. Vlasov regularly overheard Mr. Yemini updating Mr. Spears on the contents of the phone devices used by his daughter,” Ebadi wrote in her statement.
Judge Penny said Wednesday that she would take up a pending discovery dispute related to Kroll at a hearing later this month.