Attorneys for Britney Spears and her father trade tense accusations in court
By BILL HETHERMAN
Lawyers for Britney Spears and her father traded barbs Wednesday during a lively hearing over whether the elder Spears is entitled to additional fees from the singer’s estate in the wake of a judge’s Nov. 12 termination of the entertainer’s conservatorship.
Alex Weingarten, who is asking for additional fees on behalf of Jamie Spears, accused Mathew Rosengart, the singer’s attorney, of planting stories in the media, waiting for stories to be produced and written, then citing them in his court papers.
Weingarten also told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda J. Penny that Rosengart’s allegations of misconduct by Jamie Spears toward the singer, including that he secretly surveilled her, were “nonsense” and either false or taken out of context.
“It didn’t happen,” Weingarten uttered during the middle one of Rosengart’s comments on his surveillance accusation.
Weingarten said he will move to have the 40-year-old Spears’ entire file made public because he currently is restrained from commenting on areas of the case that have been sealed while Rosengart holds news conferences after every hearing.
“We’re fighting with both hands tied behind our backs,” Weingarten said. “We need the truth to come out.”
Weingarten’s remarks prompted a sharp rebuke from Rosengart.
“He knows that he’s lying,” Rosengart said. “He does not have the right to challenge my integrity. He should be admonished.”
Rosengart also said he hoped Weingarten drops his effort to unseal the file and that he did not understand why Jamie Spears would want to have his daughter’s health and other issues made public.
After the hearing, Rosengart said he was more disappointed than angry with Weingarten’s comments, adding that he does not have the power to plant stories such as the Spears surveillance account detailed in The New York Times.
The judge did allow nearly $27,000 in fees to Jodi Montgomery, Spears’ former temporary personal conservator, and her lawyer. A hearing was set for March 16 on a petition for fees by Spears’ mother, Lynne Spears.
But Rosengart’s objections to fees to Jaime Spears, former Spears attorney Samuel Ingham III and others prompted Penny to delay any decision on those until at least July 27 so all sides can undertake discovery. Penny also said that if the hearing on the fees is expected to last more than two days, it will be assigned to another judge.
The judge did not set a date for a hearing on Weingarten’s motion to unseal the file. Rosengart said a major motion of that nature warrants holding off any hearing until at least mid-April.
Accountant John Zabel, who had served as the temporary conservator of Spears’ estate primarily to wrap up financial issues, is scheduled to transfer funds soon directly to Spears.
Weingarten and other lawyers hoping for additional fees asked that a reserve account be set up to make sure there is money available if the petitioners are indeed awarded fees, saying that one of the reasons the Spears conservatorship was established in 2008 was her handling of money.
However, the judge declined to order that a reserve fund be set up. Rosengart said Spears will pay any money she is directed to if petitions are approved.