Fireworks went off in court on Wednesday at Britney Spears’ latest hearing, as the singer and her father’s attorneys went head-to-head in a continuous and contentious legal battle that last roughly three hours.
Though the conservatorship has been terminated, the fight between the pop star and her father, Jamie Spears, persists, primarily revolving around a disagreement over payment for ongoing attorney fees and allegations that the pop star was eavesdropped on by a secret surveillance apparatus with her father’s involvement.
“Lies!” exclaimed Spears attorney, Mathew Rosengart, pointing his finger at Alex Weingarten, the elder Spears’ lawyer, accusing him of making “nonsensical” and “preposterous” claims. “He should be admonished,” Rosengart told Judge Brenda Penny. “He has attacked me. He has attacked this court. And it is intolerable.”
Rosengart’s impassioned comments came after Weingarten accused Rosengart of making up false stories — such as the surveillance claims — and planting those stories with the press.
“Virtually everything that is alleged is demonstratively false or taken out of context,” Weingarten told the judge, after Rosengart said his firm has “strong evidence” that Spears’ father was involved in “very intense and potentially illegal” surveillance over the star, which was first alleged by the New York Times in their bombshell reporting last fall.
“It didn’t happen!” Weingarten shouted, standing up in front of the judge, speaking about the eavesdropping claims. Weingarten did not provide any evidence on disagreeing with the surveillance allegations, other than theorizing that Rosengart planted the story with the media.
As revealed in a court filing yesterday, Rosengart’s firm has retained a former FBI special agent to help conduct an investigation into Spears’ father’s management of her estate during the conservatorship; the filing stated that the investigation corroborated claims in the New York Times that the singer’s father had hired a security firm, Black Box, to secretly run surveillance on his famous daughter, monitoring her phone and planting a listening device into her bedroom, which captured communications with her counsel and her therapy sessions.
“The problem is we are fighting with our hands behind our back,” Weingarten told the judge, expressing that Rosengart is using the media and the pop star is using her social media, in order to get their side of the story out, he said. Weingarten then asked the court to unseal records from the entire case, so that people can hear the “truth.” He said the “public has the right to know.”
Rosengart categorized the “attacks” as “disgraceful.”
Weingarten then asked the judge to schedule a date to file a motion to unseal all records from the entire conservatorship case. The judge did not immediately set a date, and appeared to exhibit some reluctance, referencing the court’s busy calendar.
“We don’t think a father who loves his daughter would file to unseal her medical records,” Rosengart told the judge, stating that the elder Spears is only looking to save his own reputation, calling his lawyer’s request to unseal records “offensive” and “highly inappropriate.”
Though Spears’ conservatorship was terminated last fall, it may take months before an agreement can be reached, with the attorneys still fighting over whether the singer must pay legal bills incurred by her father when he was in charge of her finances.
The next major hearing in the case was set for July 27.
A separate hearing was set for March 16, regarding Rosengart’s objections to attorney fees requested by the lawyers for the star’s mother Lynne Spears. A hearing still needs to be set to deal with the singer’s former business manager, Tri Star Sports and Entertainment, quashing subpoenas served by the star’s legal team. (Rosengart has accused Tri Star of “stonewalling” his attempts to obtain information for his client and has said his firm was forced to issue two subpoenas because they would not voluntarily cooperate.)
The only significant order on Wednesday came from Penny, ruling it was not necessary to set aside a reserve from Spears’ estate — a request from Weingarten, who asked the judge to order that a certain amount of money be set aside in the meantime, to ensure that the attorneys can get paid eventually.
Before Penny’s ruling in the singer’s favor, Rosengart said the conservatorship has already been terminated, so his client has complete control over her money. He argued that if, eventually, there is a request for her to make more payments on attorneys fees, the court can make that order down the line.
“Let’s remember why this conservatorship was put in place,” Weingarten said. “Ms. Spears was irresponsible with her finances.”
The judge quickly shut down Weingarten’s statement. “Please, let’s not go there,” Penny said. “Let’s not go down that road.”
This story first appeared on Variety.com.