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Britney Spears' attorney to resign from conservatorship case

Samuel D. Ingham III asked the court permission to resign on Tuesday, two weeks after the singer testified that she wanted to find her own attorney.
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/ Source: NBC News

Britney Spears’ attorney has filed a motion to resign from his role as her counsel, almost two weeks after the pop singer testified that she wanted to choose her own lawyer in her conservatorship.

Samuel D. Ingham III, who was appointed to Spears’ case in 2008, told the Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday he will resign as soon as a new counsel is selected for the singer. In her June 23 testimony, Spears told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny that she wanted the right to pick her own attorney.

Spears said Ingham advised her against speaking out about her feelings regarding the 13-year conservatorship, which she described as abusive and isolating. She also testified that she was unaware she was allowed to petition the court to end the conservatorship.

“I know I've had grown with a personal relationship with Sam, my lawyer. I've been talking to him like three times a week now,” Spears said on June 23. “We've kind of built a relationship but I haven't really had the opportunity — by my own self — to actually handpick my own lawyer by myself. And I would like to be able to do that.”

Ingham is the third resignation from Spears’ team in the last week. Her longtime manager, Larry Rudolph, sent a letter to Spears' co-conservators, her father, James "Jamie" Spears, and Jodi Montgomery announcing his departure from her team.

The letter, first reported by Deadline on Monday and later confirmed by NBC News, said that Rudolph hadn’t communicated with the singer in over two and a half years, when she told him she planned to take an indefinite work hiatus.

“I believe it is in Britney’s best interest for me to resign from her team as my professional services are no longer needed,” Rudolph's letter added.

Bessemer Trust, the financial and wealth management group appointed as co-conservator to Spears’ case, also filed a petition to the court asking to resign. The motion, filed Thursday, cited the testimony where Spears said she wanted to have control over her own life again as its reason to leave.

Bessemer said it entered into the conservatorship because it "relied on the representations of the parties that the ongoing Conservatorship was voluntary." But now Bessemer is aware that Britney Spears "objects to the continuance of her Conservatorship and desires to terminate the Conservatorship" and the company respects her wishes, the filing said.

Spears began the process to remove her father from her conservatorship last year, when Ingham said that the singer was afraid of her father and would refuse to perform if he was in control of her guardianship. The court denied Spears’ request, but assigned Bessemer Trust as a co-conservator instead.

Montgomery was appointed as Spears' temporary conservator-of-the-person in September 2019.

Jamie Spears has repeatedly denied any allegations of abuse. He also filed a request to the court last week asking for an investigation into his daughter’s allegations of mistreatment, saying that Montgomery was the sole conservator who oversaw the decisions related to the singer's personal life and medical treatment since her appointment.

In a statement, Montgomery's lawyer said that her client "has been a tireless advocate for Britney and for her well-being," adding that if Spears wants any issue brought up to the court, Montgomery "is and has always been ready, willing, and able to do so."

Lauriann Wright, Montgomery's attorney, also said in a statement Tuesday that her client has no plans to step down from her role as conservator-of-the-person.

"She remains committed to steadfastly supporting Ms. Spears in every way she can within the scope of her duties as a conservator of the person," Wright said. "Ms. Spears as recently as yesterday has asked Ms. Montgomery to continue to serve. Ms. Montgomery will continue to serve as a conservator for as long as Ms. Spears and the Court desire her to do so.”

Questions have been raised by fans regarding the singer’s conservatorship, culminating in the #FreeBritney movement that picked up national attention in 2019. Fans have worried that what was meant to be a temporary guardianship arrangement for Spears following her 2007 breakdown has been prolonged for the profit of others, such as her father.

In Spears’ conservatorship, which in some states are called guardianships, she pays the salary of her conservators and all the attorneys involved.

Two documentaries were released this year examining Spears’ life and the circumstances of her case — The New York Times’ “Framing Britney Spears” and the BBC’s “The Battle for Britney: Fans, Cash and a Conservatorship.” Both projects scrutinize the singer’s rise to fame, the media attention surrounding her personal life and her current conservatorship battle but without Spears’ participation.

She has made few public comments about her personal views on her conservatorship until her June 23 testimony, where Spears said she wanted to end the arrangement without further evaluations.

“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive, and that we can sit here all day and say oh, conservatorships are here to help people. But ma'am, there's a thousand conservatorships that are abusive as well,” she said. “I don't feel like I can live a full life I don't own.”