A prominent Hollywood lawyer has had discussions in recent days with Britney Spears to represent her in her guardianship battle, and he plans to attend a hearing in Los Angeles on Wednesday to begin the process of taking office for his lawyer, according to a person knowledgeable on the matter.
For the past 13 years, under a strict legal arrangement that restricts many of her rights, Ms Spears has been represented by a duty counsel whom she criticized in a hearing last month when she urged the court to let her hire her own lawyer. .
Ms Spears has told others she wants to take a much more aggressive legal approach. In recent days she started chatting with Matthieu S. Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor who has represented several celebrities in recent years, about taking over and pushing for an end to the trusteeship, according to the person.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Ms Spears has not retained Mr Rosengart’s services and a judge will have to sign such an arrangement. TMZ first reported that Ms. Spears was interested in having Mr. Rosengart represent her.
If the court allows it, Ms Spears’ maintenance of Mr Rosengart would signal a radical change in the handling of the case. Confidential court documents recently obtained by the New York Times revealed that Ms Spears had expressed strong objections to the guardianship for several years and questioned her father’s suitability as a conservative. Mr Rosengart would be expected to aggressively pursue a course to end the deal.
The feud has escalated in recent months as scrutiny of the unusual guardianship has intensified and Ms Spears has publicly questioned its legitimacy. Guardianship was instituted in 2008, when concerns about her mental health and potential drug addiction led her father, James P. Spears, to seek legal authority over his daughter. Since his declaration on June 23 in court, several pillars of the guardianship have fallen: Bessemer Trust, the wealth management company which was to take over as co-custodian of his estate, has requested its withdrawal; Ms Spears’ longtime manager Larry Rudolph has resigned; and Samuel D. Ingham III, the lawyer appointed by the court in 2008 to represent her when she was found unfit to hire her own lawyer, asked the court if it could resign.
Mr Ingham has said in a court file that he would serve until the court appointed new counsel for Ms Spears, but it is not clear how a new lawyer would be selected or whether Judge Brenda Penny, who overseeing the case, would allow Ms Spears to have her say.
Mr Rosengart, 58, previously served as legal assistant to former New Hampshire state judge David Souter shortly before his Supreme Court appointment. Mr. Rosengart worked in the Department of Justice as the Assistant United States Attorney in the 1990s.
After leaving the Department of Justice, he worked as a white collar defense lawyer and civil litigator. In recent years, he has represented several prominent Hollywood personalities, including Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg and Kenneth Lonergan.
In Mr. Penn’s case, Mr. Rosengart helped him win a libel case against a manager who made allegations about Mr. Penn’s past behavior. The lawyer produced an affidavit from Madonna, the actor’s ex-wife, which refuted the director’s claims. Mr Penn said in a statement on Sunday that Mr Rosengart “is a tough street fighter with a big brain and bigger principles.”
In a June 23 hearing, Ms Spears vehemently criticized the guardianship, saying she was forced to perform, take debilitating drugs and stay on birth control.
She also raised questions about Mr. Ingham’s defense on her behalf. She said in court that she did not know how to end the arrangement.
“I didn’t know I could apply for the end of the guardianship,” Ms Spears, 39, said in court. “I’m sorry for my ignorance, but honestly, I didn’t know.” She added: “My lawyer says I can’t – it’s not good, I can’t let the public know what they did to me.”
“He told me I should keep it to myself, really,” the singer said.
It is not known what private discussions Mr Ingham and Ms Spears had as to whether or how she might ask to end the trusteeship. Last year Mr Ingham began pushing for substantial configuration changes on Ms Spears’ behalf, including attempts to remove power from her father, who still controls the singer’s nearly $ 60 million fortune. .
Mr Ingham’s withdrawal request also included the letter of resignation from the law firm Loeb & Loeb, which Mr Ingham had appealed to last year to help it prepare for litigation.
A lawyer for Lynne Spears, Ms Spears’ mother and an interested party in the guardianship, has asked the court to allow Ms Spears to hire her own private legal counsel.
Ms Spears’ personal curator, Jodi Montgomery, recently filed an urgent request that the court appoint an ad litem guardian who would only be responsible for helping Ms Spears choose her own lawyer. The record indicated that Ms. Spears had “repeatedly and consistently” sought Ms. Montgomery’s assistance in finding a new lawyer and that Ms. Spears deserved to be represented by a leading law firm.
Mr. Rosengart is a partner at Greenberg Traurig, a large international firm with hundreds of lawyers with varied expertise.