By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -The conservatorship that has controlled the life of Britney Spears for 13 years neared a possible end on Wednesday after a judge suspended her father, and the pop super-star said later that she was “on cloud 9 right now.”
At a contentious three-hour hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny removed Jamie Spears from oversight of his daughter’s $60 million estate and set a November date to discuss whether to terminate the entire arrangement.
In an Instagram post following the judge’s ruling, the “Stronger” singer posted video showing her seated next to a pilot in the cockpit of a small plane and maneuvering the controls.
“First time flying a plane and first time in a prop plane !!! Geez I was scared,” she wrote, without mentioning the conservatorship.
In court, Penny removed Jamie Spears from his role after the singer’s attorney said she did not want him involved for even one more day.
“The current situation is not tenable. It reflects a toxic environment which requires the suspension of Jamie Spears, effective today,” Penny said.
The judge said she would hold a hearing on Nov. 12 to discuss a petition to terminate the conservatorship that controls Britney Spears’ business and personal affairs.
Britney Spears, now 39, has been struggling for years to get free of the legal arrangement. She did not take part in Wednesday’s hearing.
“It’s a great day for Britney Spears and it’s a great day for justice,” the singer’s attorney Mathew Rosengart told #FreeBritney fans gathered outside the Los Angeles courthouse.
“Britney Spears has been faced with a decade-long nightmare, a Kafkaesque nightmare, orchestrated by her father and others,” Rosengart said.
Jamie Spears will be replaced by an accountant, John Zabel, on a temporary basis, Penny said.
“IT’S LOGICAL, IT’S FAIR”
#FreeBritney fans erupted in cheers as the judge’s ruling was conveyed. Pop singer Cher tweeted, “I’m more than thrilled 4 her. Bless our super star.”
Jamie Spears had been in charge of his daughter’s business affairs since 2008, when he put in place a wide-ranging, court-approved conservatorship after she suffered a mental breakdown. The details of Britney Spears’ mental health have never been revealed.
Rosengart said he envisaged an orderly transition in which the conservatorship could end before the close of the year. “It’s simple, it’s logical, it’s fair, it’s just,” he told the judge.
Ironically, it was Jamie Spears who earlier in September reversed years of objections and abruptly called for the conservatorship to end. But he argued that he should remain in his role to smooth the transition.
Rosengart, however, demanded that Jamie Spears be suspended immediately.
“According to Britney Spears, his service has been abusive, it’s been toxic and it’s been cruel,” he said.
A New York Times documentary released last week alleged that the singer’s phone and bedroom were bugged by security staff working for her father. Conversations with friends, her children and her previous lawyer were monitored, a former security staffer said.
Jamie Spears has said his actions were within his authority as conservator. “Mr. Spears has faithfully and loyally served as a court-appointed conservator for 13 years. His record is impeccable,” his attorney Vivian Thoreen said on Wednesday.
Spears stepped up her efforts in June to break free of the conservatorship, telling the judge in her first public comments that she wanted her life back.
Public support, helped by three documentaries, has swelled.
Two weeks ago Britney Spears announced her engagement to Sam Asghari, 27, her personal trainer boyfriend of more than four years. The pair hope to marry after negotiating a pre-nuptial agreement.
“Free Britney! Congratulations !!!!” Asghari wrote on his Instagram account after the hearing.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Writing by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Richard Chang, Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)