The American Civil Liberties Union
is fighting for Britney Spears
' right to choose her own attorney and arguing that she should be given assistance in making the best decision for herself.
The civil rights
organization and the ACLU
Foundation of Southern California
filed an amicus brief with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County
on Tuesday, with 25 civil rights and disability rights
organizations supporting it, including the Arc of the United States
, Center for Public Representation
, Disability Rights Education
and Defense Fund, and the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network.
“We don’t know whether Spears identifies as disabled,” Zo Brennan-Krohn, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project, told Stardia in August 2020, “but we do know that by placing her under conservatorship
, the court is de facto identifying her as disabled.”
An amicus brief is a legal document submitted to a court that provides information, expertise, or insight on a case from a person or organization that is not directly involved in the case.
The ACLU explained in a press release for its amicus brief that judges
usually appoint conservatees with a lawyer and that someone in Spears' situation has little say in the matter; in fact, conservatees have no control over anything regarding their conservatorship, including their guardians.
“It is up to the court to decide who her conservator or conservators will be,” Brennan-Krohn told Stardia in 2020. “Many people enter conservatorships not realizing that the court — not the family
, conservator, or person under conservatorship — is in charge.”
At the time
, Brennan-Krohn also told Stardia that people are placed in conservatorships because "a judge determines that they are unable to provide for food
, clothing, or shelter."
During her shocking testimony last month, Spears expressed her desire to hire her own representation, and a damning New Yorker report published earlier this month details the lengths the 39-year-old pop star went to obtain a cell phone in order to hire her own attorney.
According to the ACLU, Spears' right to choose her own attorney "is a core element of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, and people under a conservatorship should be able to retain this right."
“Britney Spears has stated that she wishes to select her own attorney, and the court should respect that wish,” Brennan-Krohn stated in a press release.
According to Brennan-Krohn, “Spears' right to choose an attorney is not only a fundamental tenet of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, but also consistent with principles of personal autonomy and agency.”
“The California Superior Court must recognize Spears’ autonomy as well as the rights of people with disabilities
to live independent, self-directed lives as active members of their communities,” said Brennan-Krohn.
In a separate document, also filed on Tuesday, the ACLU offered to assist Spears in finding a replacement lawyer who would use supported decision-making.
According to the organization, supported decision-making is "a widely recognized approach to ensuring people with and without disabilities can make their own informed choices, typically with the assistance of trusted advisors, mentors, friends
, or professionals."
The ACLU has publicly offered to help Spears with her conservatorship case before.
“If Britney Spears wants to regain her civil liberties and be released
from conservatorship, we are here to help her,” the organization tweeted in August 2020.
People with disabilities have the right to live self-directed lives while retaining their civil rights. If Britney Spears wants to regain her civil liberties and get out
of her conservatorship, we are here to assist her. https://t.co/uLRakw7c4C
— ACLU (@ACLU) August 19, 2020