The FREE Act would make it easier for people like pop star Britney Spears to replace their conservators.
Reps. Propose the FREE Act
Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fl.) and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) proposed legislation on Tuesday inspired by pop star Britney Spears that would give people under legal conservatorships an easier path to removing and replacing their conservators.
The bipartisan effort is called The Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, also known as the FREE Act or Free Britney Act. According to a release shared by Crist, the bill aims to give conservatees “the right to petition the court to have their private guardian or conservator replaced with a public guardian or conservator without needing to prove misconduct or abuse.”
If passed, it would also give people under conservatorships an assigned caseworker to “monitor for signs of abuse or neglect” and inform the conservatee of their rights. That caseworker, as well as the conservator, would be required to disclose their finances to make sure there are no conflicts of interest. To allow this to happen, the bill also includes grants to states so they can hire caseworkers and other public guardians as needed to meet the demands of the legislation.
The FREE Act would also require states to submit annual reports on “the state of guardianship and conservatorship” in their states to increase transparency.
Comes Amid Britney Spears’ Legal Battle
The bill comes as Spears’ battle to end her 13-year-long conservatorship has sparked public outrage. Last month, the star told the court she felt her conservatorship was “abusive” and pleaded to have her “life back.”
Since her explosive statement, Spears has been granted permission to select her own lawyer. Her new attorney pledges to work to free the singer, but Spears still faces an uphill climb.
Mace said that if conservatorship abuse can happen to a high-profile celebrity such as Spears,“it can happen to anyone in this country.”
“To see a woman like Britney Spears have her most basic human rights permanently stripped away from her under the guise of ‘protection’ should be illegal,” Mace added in a statement. “Our bipartisan bill will do more than #FreeBritney, it will give anyone in a conservatorship the right to petition the court for a public guardian with absolutely no conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise.”
During a digital press conference, Crist echoed Mace’s remarks and said he hopes that having leaders from both sides of the political spectrum fight for this will encourage more support for the legislation.
“I think it sends a powerful message to the country that in fact, Republicans and Democrats can work together to try to do what’s right,” he said. “As I’ve said to her before, this is really not a right versus left issue, this is a right versus wrong issue, and far too many times these things go wrong. This legislation will give the individual the opportunity to petition that court to make sure that right prevails.”
The FREE Act has already found support from multiple organizations, including Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship.
“This bill goes a long way at protecting the rights and civil liberties of every American citizen who might be the subject of a Guardianship proceeding,” AAAPG representative Hillary Hogue said in in a statement. “Justice requires transparency. This bill will provide the data that is so needed but has always been non-existent.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Hill) (Rolling Stone)
Jay-Z, Other Artists, Sign Letter Supporting N.Y. Bill to Block Use of Rap Lyrics in Court
The legislation aims to “protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors.”
New York Senators Introduce “Rap Music On Trial” Bill
Jay-Z and a slew of other rappers and artists signed a letter this week in support of a New York law that would prevent rap lyrics from being used as evidence in court.
The bill, titled Rap Music on Trial, was introduced in November by state Sens. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Jamaal Bailey (D-Queens). Rap Music on Trial aims to “enhance the free speech protections of New Yorkers by banning the use of art created by a defendant as evidence against them in a courtroom.”
“The legislation will protect all artists and content creators, including rappers from having their lyrics wielded against them by prosecutors,” a statement released by the senators said.
If the law were passed, in order to submit lyrics and other creative works as evidence, prosecutors would need to present “clear and convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between creative expression and the facts of the case.”
Hoylman, Bailey, rappers, and many other advocates believe that rap lyrics are often used unfairly in court.
“The use of rap and hip-hop lyrics in particular is emblematic of the systemic racism that permeates our criminal justice system,” Bailey explained in a statement.
Major Artists Sign Letter Backing Legislation
The letter signed by Jay-Z echoed those concerns. It was written by his lawyer, Alex Spiro, and University of Richmond Professor Erik Nielson. Meek Mill, Big Sean, Fat Joe, Kelly Rowland, and Robin Thicke were among the other artists who put their names behind the cause.
“Rather than acknowledge rap music as a form of artistic expression, police and prosecutors argue that the lyrics should be interpreted literally — in the words of one prosecutor, as ‘autobiographical journals’ — even though the genre is rooted in a long tradition of storytelling that privileges figurative language, is steeped in hyperbole, and employs all of the same poetic devices we find in more traditional works of poetry,” the letter said.
According to Spiro and Nielson, using rap lyrics allows prosecutors to “obtain convictions even when other evidence is lacking.” They also argued the strategy specifically harms young Black and Latino men, who are “the overwhelming majority of artists in these cases.”
Several high-profile artists have experienced this practice themselves. In their joint statement, Hoylman and Bailey pointed to a 2019 case where Tekashi69’s lyrics were introduced in court to compel him to become a government witness to avoid harsher sentencing.
Per a report from Rolling Stone, the late Drakeo the Ruler was subjected to something similar while on trial for a 2016 murder case. Before he was acquitted of the crime, prosecutors attempted to use lyrics from his song “Flex Freestyle” in an effort to make jurors think he brought a group of armed people to a party to target the victim.
In the letter, Spiro and Nielson pointed to research that “identified hundreds of cases” where rap lyrics were exploited in court, noting that the genre has the “potential to be highly prejudicial.”
In one study they cited, two groups were given identical violent lyrics, but one group was told those lyrics came from a country song, and the other was told it was rap. Members of the group who believed the lyrics were rap “were significantly more likely to view them as threatening and in need of regulation” than members of those who thought the words came from a country song.
“Nobody thinks Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno just to watch him die, or that David Byrne is a psycho killer, but routinely rappers have their lyrics used against them in criminal trials,” Hoylman said in a November tweet.
“As these and other studies suggest, weaponizing rap music against its creators is racially and culturally discriminatory,” the letter concluded. “It is also an affront to the First Amendment protections that everyone in this country should be entitled to.”
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Billboard) (The Gaurdian)
Britney Spears Sends Cease and Desist to Jamie Lynn Over Book Tour
Britney’s lawyer claimed that Jamie Lynn’s “ill-timed book” contains “misleading or outrageous claims” about the singer.
Britney Spears Slaps Sister With Cease and Desist
Britney Spears sent a cease and desist letter this week demanding her sister, Jamie Lynn, stop “referencing Britney derogatorily during” her book tour.
The two sisters have been embroiled in a heated war of words over the last week, largely prompted by Jamie Lynn’s new memoir, “Things I Should Have Said.” In the book and during its accompanying press tour, Jamie Lynn has discussed a variety of issues, including Britney’s controversial conservatorship, their father’s struggles with alcoholism, and what it was like to be raised in her older sister’s shadow.
“We write with some hesitation because the last thing Britney wants is to bring more attention to your ill-timed book and its misleading or outrageous claims about her,” Britney’s lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Variety. “Although Britney has not read and does not intend to read your book, she and millions of her fans were shocked to see how you have exploited her for monetary gain. She will not tolerate it, nor should she.”
The Spears family has been the subject of international headlines over the last year as the legal battle to free the “Toxic” singer from her 13-year conservatorship took off. Britney has been vocal about the fact that she felt largely abandoned by her family while she was in the conservatorship, claiming they did nothing to help her. A Los Angeles judge officially terminated the arrangement in November, giving the pop star newfound control over her life.
“Having endured a 13-year conservatorship that stripped her of civil rights and fundamental liberties, Britney will no longer be bullied by her father or anyone else,” the letter continued. “Britney was the family’s breadwinner and she also otherwise supported you. Publicly airing false or fantastical grievances is wrong, especially when designed to sell books. It is also potentially unlawful and defamatory.”
Spears Sisters Duke it Out on Social Media
During the press tour, Jamie Lynn has conducted interviews aired on “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” and the “Call Her Daddy” podcast with Alex Cooper. Britney has taken issue with several stories Jamie Lynn told, including one where she claims Britney locked them inside a room together with a knife because she was “scared.”
“I’ve never been around you ever with a knife or would I ever even think to do such,” Britney wrote in one Twitter post denying the story.
“Hope your book does well, Jamie Lynn !!!!” the singer wrote in another post. “My family ruined my dreams 100 billion percent and try to make me look like the crazy one.”
Jamie Lynn has defended her choice to write the memoir, arguing that she is “speaking my truth to heal my traumas.”
“I hate to burst my sister’s bubble, but my book is not about her,” she wrote. “I can’t help that I was born a Spears too, and that some of my experiences involve my sister.“
Rosengart mentioned this statement in the cease and desist letter.
“You recently reportedly stated that the book was ‘not about her.’ [Britney] takes you at your word and we, therefore, demand that you cease and desist from referencing Britney derogatorily during your promotional campaign,” he wrote. “If you fail to do so or defame her, Britney will be forced to consider and take all appropriate legal action.”
See what others are saying: (Variety) (USA Today) (Rolling Stone)
Streamers Stand Up For Pokimane Amid Controversy With Ninja and JiDion
Ninja and his family have threatened legal action against Pokimane, but many argue she is yet again the target of gender-based harassment.
What Happened Between Pokimane, Ninja, and JiDion?
Pokimane criticized fellow streamer Ninja on Monday for seemingly offering to help JiDion evade his recent Twitch ban, prompting a larger conversation about female harassment on the platform.
The controversy began last week when JiDion hate-raided one of Pokimane’s Twitch streams. JiDion was initially given a 14-day ban from the platform, but it was eventually extended to a permanent ban, which he vowed to fight against. He and his viewers attempted to enlist the help of Ninja in hopes he might be able to get in touch with Twitch.
At one point, Ninja said he would consider seeing if there was anything he could do, but warned that JiDion should not spam anyone or “ratio bitches” in the future. While Ninja soon clarified he did not mean Pokimane specifically, rather “bitches in general,” many lambasted the streamer’s choice of words as Pokimane is vocal about the vitriol female creators face.
“I wonder if Ninja would have said bitches if it was a large male streamer that was hate raided,” Pokimane said during a livestream. “But I digress.”
During a stream of his own, Ninja also said he texted his Twitch representative for assistance on behalf of JiDion.
“Why Ninja would help someone evade a ban for harassing me?” Pokimane said in response. “I have no idea. I genuinely don’t know.”
Jessica Blevins Threatens Legal Action
Pokimane has continued to call out Ninja for aiding a streamer who was facing consequences for harassing her. However, despite his comments during his own stream, Ninja now claims he never actually texted his representative to help JiDion.
“I swear on my grandfather’s life, who just passed away, that I didn’t text my twitch rep,” he said in the alleged direct message to Pokimane. “You are making a big mistake.”
Ninja’s wife, Jessica Blevins, likewise allegedly messaged Pokimane about the ordeal.
“We are considering everything defamation of character at this point and are getting our legal team involved,” Blevins wrote, according to the screenshot shared by Pokimane. “You are spewing lies to tens of thousands of people. You know Twitch, you claim you know his rep, then you know from them that Tyler NEVER reached out to anyone, and AGAIN, just said that to stop the harassment in his chat from jidion’s viewers. We have clarified everything to you. You are actively bringing harassment to Tyler and I right now at the highest level and we are taking this very seriously.”
Pokimane said she interpreted this to mean that Ninja merely pretended to text the representative.
“I’m willing to accept [that] and cannot disprove,” she tweeted. “I just wanted the clip out there to show what happened.”
JiDion has since apologized to Pokimane and asked for his followers to put the ordeal behind them. Other major streamers have also taken to Twitter to support Pokimane, citing the constant harassment female content creators are subjected to online.
Streamers Support Pokimane
“If Ninja’s upset about being harassed and ‘misrepresented’… imagine how Pokimane feels every single day being a woman on Twitch,” ConnorEatsPants wrote.
“Sad how Pokimane still has to deal with misogyny and harassment in 2022,” Mizkif added. “And It’s even more sad how I have to say this publicly because people are afraid to stand up and say she’s being treated poorly because they’ll be called a ‘simp.’”
Valkyrae wrote that she will “always” support Pokimane, while Annie Fuschia said the streamer has so “much strength” for sticking up for herself.