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Why can't Britney Spears testify in defamation case?

  • Britney Spears' former manager is suing the pop star for defamation, breach of contract
  • The singer's attorneys want to keep her off the witness stand
Why can't Britney Spears testify?

Britney Spears’ attorneys are trying to make sure she doesn’t have to testify in court.

The pop star and "X Factor" judge is being sued by her former manager, Sam Lutfi, for defamation and breach of contract.

Read more: Spears' attorneys want lawsuit thrown out

This is not the first time Lutfi’s attorneys have tried to force her to answer questions under oath.

Unlike criminal trials, defendants are often ordered to testify in civil proceedings.

But Lutfi’s legal team lost on their first attempt because more than four years ago a judge gave conservators, including Spears’ father, control of her legal, health and welfare decisions.

So Lutfi’s lawyers are asking a second time.

In order to keep Spears off the witness stand, her attorneys are arguing that her unique legal status prevents her from testifying because the court granted her conservators the power to make legal decisions for her.

Spears’ co-conservators filed a motion last week with the Superior Court of Los Angeles, California, to try to stop Lutfi’s attorneys’ latest request for Spears to testify. It states:

“Beginning in 2007, Britney’s mental and physical health was precarious; by January 2008, she was placed in two involuntary psychiatric holds in Los Angeles hospitals. As a result, on February 1, 2008, Judge [Reva] Goetz, sitting in the Probate Department granted temporary conservatorship petitions over her person and estate to Britney’s father, James P. Spears. A professional fiduciary, attorney Andrew M. Wallet, was named by the Court as a Co-Conservator of the estate.”

Read for yourself: Spears' co-conservators motion

The document stops short of calling Spears incompetent, but a footnote reminds the court of why a conservatorship is usually created. “The authority of the Court over guardianships and conservatorships derive from ‘the parens patriae’ power of the state to protect incompetent persons,” the footnote reads.

Last year, Judge Goetz, who originally granted the conservatorship, ruled that Spears could not be compelled to testify in Lutfi’s lawsuit.  

“The Probate Court has continuing and exclusive jurisdiction over all matters affecting the health and welfare of [Spears]," states the motion filed by Spears’ conservators. "On April 27, 2011, the Probate Court, by order signed by Judge Goetz, expressly directed that Britney’s Co-Conservators could not produce Britney as a witness at the trial of this action.”

Judge Zaven Sinanian is presiding over Lutfi’s lawsuit, and deferred to Judge Goetz’s ruling.

The motion goes on to state that Judge Sinanian told Lutfi’s lawyers to go back to Judge Goetz in the Probate Court if he wanted to ask for a change in Spears’ status, but they never did. “In this action, Lutfi moved to compel Britney’s submission [f]or an Independent Medical Examination (“IME’). At the hearing on June 15, 2011, Judge Sinanian denied Lutfi’s discovery motion and suggested that he take action in the Probate Court should he desire modification of the Probate Court’s Orders. Lutfi failed to seek reconsideration or review of Judge Sinanian’s order, and he took no action in furtherance of Judge Sinanian’s suggestion that Lutfi take action in the Probate Court if Lutfi had any problem with the Probate Court’s orders.”

Judge Sinanian has not yet ruled on Lutfi’s attorneys latest request to force Spears to testify.

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