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Archive for Saturday, February 2, 2008

Spears’ father given temporary control

February 2, 2008

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— Throughout the course of Britney Spears' monthslong emotional tailspin, one universal question has always lingered with each spectacular turn: Why doesn't her family take drastic measures to stop this?

On Friday, they did.

Spears' father, James Spears, was put in charge of the troubled pop star's welfare during a surprise court appearance by him and mother Lynne Spears, a day after their daughter was whisked to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

Just as Spears' immediate family was taking charge of her life, Sam Lutfi, the man seen escorting her about town and sometimes speaking on her behalf, was removed from the picture with a restraining order. A message left on Lutfi's cell phone seeking comment was not immediately returned.

James Spears' eyes grew teary when he was named conservator of his daughter. He and an attorney, Andrew Wallet, were name conservators of the estate. The parents sat with attorney Blair Berk throughout the hearing, smiling and embracing after the announcement.

The events of the past two days were the first positive signs that Spears may have reached a turning point in a downward spiral of bizarre behavior - all of it captured by paparazzi lenses - that has resulted in her losing custody and visitation rights with her two young sons.

Spears was taken early Thursday morning by paramedics with a heavy police escort to UCLA Medical Center's psychiatric hospital. There was no account or description of the young star's actual condition during the hearing.

It was the second hospitalization this year for the 26-year-old singer, who has exhibited odd behavior since November 2006, when she filed for divorce from Kevin Federline, the father of their sons, 1-year-old Jayden James and 2-year-old Sean Preston.

A court creates conservatorships when it determines that a person cannot care for themselves. Commissioner Reva Goetz said Spears would be under conservatorship until Monday, at which time another hearing will be held.

As conservator, her father will have the power to "restrict visitors," have around-the-clock security for Spears, and have access to all medical records, Goetz said. It was unclear if the court gave her father the power to make medical decisions on Spears' behalf; even if that was granted, their role can be limited.

Conservators can consult with doctors on medication options, but the patient can refuse. Only in emergencies can someone be forcefully treated. Otherwise, a court hearing must be scheduled to hammer out the issue.

"Being a conservator does not give them the power to force medication," said Nancy Kincaid, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Mental Health.

The court also issued a restraining order against Lutfi, Spears' sometimes manager and friend, and gave her father permission to change the locks on her estate.

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