Don’t Call it a Setback for Britney

Observers should note that Friday’s order denying Britney Spear’s ex parte application to advance, or move up her September 29, 2021 hearing on the petition to remove her father James Spears as conservator of her estate, to an earlier date, was in no way a reflection on the merits of her case and was not even a negative action.

Hollywood reporters tend to describe procedural events in a lawsuit as being dramatic or portentious, when they are anything but that. When a party asks to be heard ex parte they are requesting that the judge decide their motion without following the customary process of law. They seek expedited action, rather than allowing the other side the normal (statutory) amount of time to respond to their papers, for reply papers (a rebuttal to any points raised by the opposition papers that, in this, case, would be filed by James Spears) to be filed and for all of the filings to be read and considered by the Court. Additionally, they are effectively asking the judge to let them cut in line, to have their petition heard before other matters on the calendar that are waiting to be decided.

The California courts were closed for months last year, due to Covid. Consequently, a backlog accumulated and each courtroom’s work piled up. It was once possible to get a hearing date for a motion or petition in a case within a matter of weeks, now it is not uncommon for it to take months just to get in front of a judge, to ask him/her any question, be it big or small. There are many people who filed petitions before Brittany did and they are expecting to have their turn in court, based on the order in which they received a hearing date. If their filings came before hers, her hearing date can only be rescheduled to precede theirs, if very good reasons (“good cause”) exist. Her claims are more famous than theirs, but not necessarily more important.

The Court only allows a party to circumvent the usual waiting time to have their motion heard if there is an extraordinary reason to do so. For an ex parte application to be granted, the party seeking ex parte relief must, essentially, show that an emergency situation exists and that something irretrievable will be lost if they are not allowed to have their motion heard in a shorter time period. Her attorneys would need to prove that something adverse would happen to Britney that could not be reversed, unless the Court acts before September 29, 2021.

I realize that Britney’s fans believe that her life is being held hostage and that is the emergency that should put her hearing at the front of the line, before all the other courtroom petitions waiting for a day in Court. I agree with them, but that’s not the way courtroom red tape works. Overprotected singer, Spears has been under a conservatorship since 2008 and, from the Court’s perspective, waiting two more months to have her status reassessed is no big deal.

The fact is, the more complex or complicated the question is that you want the Court to decide, the more time the Court needs to consider all of the evidence, legal issues and arguments. It was not reasonable to expect the Court to agree to speed up the hearing date.

The Court did so “without prejudice.” That means that Britney’s lawyers have not lost the right to make the same request again, if they have stronger grounds to support it. If they can show that Britney or her estate would suffer harm that cannot be undone, unless the Court decides the conservatorship issue before September 29, 2021, then they can make another ex parte application.

The important thing to take away is that Britney Spears case has not been hurt in any way. Nothing was decided against her. No tactical advantage was removed. Her lawyers filed an application that they knew they had little chance of winning and they, predictably, did not win. It’s like missing a half-court shot at the buzzer, when you still have 20 more minutes of playing time and are favored to win the game. The ball was very unlikely to go in, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Also nothing lost. The August 6, 2021 ruling should not be considered any type of victory for James Spears team.

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