Why a Conservatorship for Britney, But Not Kanye?

Billion-dollar sponsorships set ablaze, international calls for boycott and deplatforming – and then there’s the downfall of Donda Academy. Thanks to Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, this past October may go down in history as the single greatest stretch of self-destruction ever committed by a celebrity.

To say something is clearly off with Ye is almost certainly understating things, and while his comments are revolting in any context, many are wondering whether they are a cry for help motivated by mental illness rather than genuinely held beliefs.

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And some observers are seeing parallels to the 2008 media-fueled breakdown of Britney Spears – more specifically, they’re seeing what they perhaps misunderstand as an apparent hypocrisy.

“If he’s so mentally ill, why don’t they appoint a conservator over his money like they did with the poor Britney Spears?” shock jock and self-described Team Britney member Howard Stern opined after Ye’s antisemitic remarks. Comedian D.L. Hughley gave TMZ a similar take, speculating that Ye’s gender was the only thing preventing a conservatorship like Britney Spears’ from being put in place.

It’s a point that’s caught on all over social media, and a question that invites all kinds of interesting discussions about gender inequality, the stigmas of mental illness, and the predatory nature of celebrity news consumption.

Edge

At the risk of being a buzzkill, it’s also a question with a relatively straightforward legal answer. Put simply, Spears essentially consented to her conservatorship, while there is little doubt Ye would ever find himself lacking words to say in his own defense.

What’s more, while both celebrities have the access and financial means to hire an all-star legal team to make arguments for him, here nobody seems interested in stepping up to seek Ye’s conservatorship, like Spears’ family did. Ye’s parents have passed away, his children are all minors.

There are two kinds of conservatorships that could apply here, but the relevant one is not what Spears consented to – a probate conservatorship. These are often invoked, for example, in situations where a previously able-bodied person suffers a stroke or otherwise declines mentally or physically in a way that inhibits their ability to manage their own affairs. What is relevant here is what is known in California as an LPS conservatorship.

An LPS conservatorship can only be initiated by the subject’s treating physician (and often follows an involuntary mental health hold), and here again we’ve heard nothing to suggest that Ye’s medical team has any intention of taking this position.

That all being said, there’s nothing stopping me, you, or anyone else from petitioning the probate court to establish a Spears-style conservatorship for Ye (the law wants people to come forward to help those in need, after all), but such a request is unlikely to be successful in the face of opposition from Ye.

A probate court conservatorship is not the appropriate place for an involuntary mental health conservatorship, a fact judges would immediately recognize. Seeking conservatorship would likely result in nothing more than a ripe opportunity for Ye to grandstand further, and who wants that?

To be clear, I think there is a very valid point to be drawn from the comparison, but most commentary I’ve seen so far seems to have it backwards. The complex and often abusive nature of probate battles was something that only seemed to come to the public’s consciousness when the Spears dispute gave it a strong celebrity angle, and after nearly 15 years of discourse the result is that many states are taking a hard look at their conservatorship and guardianship laws. Conservatorships are an extreme measure that should never be taken lightly. I think most people are correlating the struggles of two celebrities – one male, one female – to make a point about gender inequity.

But the commentary from Stern and others seems to miss the point – your conclusion should be that Ye should be put in a conservatorship, which seems to me to be almost a gross, backwards validation of Spears’ conservatorship.

Your conclusion should be that Spears’ case began as an attempt by her family to stop their spiraling daughter from falling farther, while the arguments for Ye’s proposed conservatorship sound almost punitive, which is not the purpose of any state’s conservatorship laws, and they should not be reverse-engineered in an attempt to punish anyone, even an infamous celebrity.

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