Britney Spears' conservatorship battle is having implications far beyond just the pop star's life and career. On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law to reform conservatorships in the state that will close several loopholes in the system. The law was signed the day after a judge suspended Spears' father Jamie Spears as conservator of the singer's finances, with a certified public accountant taking over until the conservatorship is completely dissolved.
California legislators criticized the conservatorship system for lacking accountability and transparency, which inspired the new law. It requires nonprofessional conservators who oversee an estate worth over $1 million to register as a professional and receive training, reports CBS News. Conservators could also face a civil penalty of up to $50,000 if a judge decides the conservator was not acting in the best interest of the conservatee. The law also gives the conservatee more control over their legal representation. For years, Spears was represented by a court-appointed attorney until July, when Judge Brenda Penny allowed Spears to hire her own attorney, Mathew Rosengart.
"This bill saw unanimous support throughout the process because we know there are systemic failures when it comes to conservatorships in California," Assemblymember Evan Low, who introduced the bill to the California Assembly, said in a statement last month after it passed the state legislature. "We've seen the heartbreaking case of Britney Spears play out in the public eye, but there are hundreds - if not thousands - of other cases in which families are struggling. We need to do everything in our power to help them and their loved ones receive the care and support they need." Low's statement noted that the bill was partly inspired by Spears' case.
"Too often articles in the media reveal widespread abuse of vulnerable elders and dependent adults by conservators and deficiencies in the courts' oversight of conservatorships," Senator John Laird added last month. "My colleague Assemblymember Low's AB 1194 works toward a safer and more just future for those living under conservatorships, and I am proud to co-author this important bill to hold conservators to the highest standard."
On Wednesday, Penny granted Spears' request to have Jamie suspended as the conservator of Spears' estate and replaced with CPA John Zabel through at least the rest of the year. Jamie's attorney, Vivan Thoreen, argued for the conservatorship to end immediately, arguing that the suspension will only allow Rosengart to "go digging" to find evidence of alleged abuse. The next hearing is set for Nov. 12, when the judge could decide to end the conservatorship entirely.