The battle over Britney Spears' affairs heated up in court on Monday (February 4) as her father and his lawyers faced off against a new attorney who claimed to have been hired by the singer this weekend. The lawyer wanted to fire the singer's father as conservator of her estate, though the court ultimately did not recognize him as her counsel.
Adam Streisand, a second cousin to Barbra Streisand and an attorney who specializes in disputes over large celebrity estates, told the court during a hearing that Britney has a "very strong desire" for her father, Jamie Spears, not to be the conservator of her estate, as was decided as a temporary measure on Friday. Streisand, who spoke with Britney for 30 minutes on Saturday and a short while on Monday, said the singer — who is currently being hospitalized — has been estranged from her father and that the situation is causing a "greater estrangement."
Jamie Spears' attorneys, as well as a court-appointed investigator, questioned whether Streisand could represent Spears, saying that she didn't have the mental capacity to hire him at this time. Sam Ingham, the court-appointed investigator who spoke with Britney for 15 minutes on Sunday, told the court that the singer "did not understand" the nature of the proceedings and the impact the process could have on her affairs. "She lacks the capacity to retain direct counsel," he told the court. Streisand responded, "I am her lawyer." Commissioner Reva Goetz disagreed and did not recognize him as Spears' attorney, ejecting him from the courtroom.
Streisand, who said he was referred to the singer by her custody lawyers at Trope and Trope, had also questioned the expertise of court-appointed co-conservator Andrew Wallet, claiming that he didn't have the expertise to handle the estate or the trust, given that Britney's estate is worth $40 million, encompasses 15 separate entities and is in the middle of a $17 million audit. Streisand had asked the court to instead name Northern Trust Bank and Spears' business manager Howard Grossman as co-conservators. Grossman, who hadn't yet handed over the financial information to Wallet because he didn't know if he was supposed to, said he would be "happy to help" his client and her family in any way.
Goetz decided instead to extend the temporary conservatorship, with Jamie Spears as conservator over her person, and Jamie Spears and Andrew Wallet over her estate, through February 14, at which point they will examine the matter in another hearing. The powers that Jamie Spears and Wallet currently have as co-conservators have also been slightly extended, according to court-information director Allan Parachini. A physician has been assigned to evaluate Britney before the next hearing, and his report is due to the court February 13.
Jamie Spears' attorneys said that the singer's father, who was present "under great stress," only wanted to watch over his daughter's assets while she's healing and would return control "once she's well." His lawyers also expressed a wish to remove Trope and Trope as his daughter's attorneys, saying that it "may be necessary" to get new counsel, but the judge said she was not in the position to grant that just yet.
Commissioner Reva Goetz also said she would seal the singer's medical records and ejected reporters from the courtroom once the discussion turned to the singer's medical and mental condition.
Meanwhile, Spears' parents have yet to be able to distance themselves from the singer's manager Sam Lutfi, who spoke to Britney on Sunday. Efforts to serve him with a restraining order failed twice over the weekend. In an extension of the restraining order, Lutfi is ordered to have no contact with Britney, either directly or indirectly. He is not allowed to contact her in person, by phone, e-mail or text message.