An emotional Britney Spears scored a victory in her bid to end her father Jamie Spears's control of her affairs on Wednesday, as a judge ruled she could appoint her own lawyer to help end a guardianship that the pop superstar slammed as "cruelty".
Britney, 39, phoned into a Los Angeles court three weeks after her first explosive testimony, in which she pleaded with a judge to free her from the years-long conservatorship, ramped up worldwide interest in the case.
During Wednesday's hearing, Judge Brenda Penny accepted the resignation of Britney's previous lawyer and signalled she would accept Britney's new choice, Mathew Rosengart, to represent her.
"We will be filing a petition as soon as possible to move Mr Spears, subject to our formal retention," said Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor who has represented Steven Spielberg and Sean Penn.
"Why is Mr Spears not voluntarily stepping down? He does not belong in this conservatorship anymore. And we believe he should voluntarily step down immediately."
Britney, speaking to the court again via telephone, was at times angry and upset, and used the occasional expletive, as she said she wanted to "press charges" against her father.
"I'm angry and I will go there," the singer said, even telling the court at one point she thought "they were trying to kill me".
"If the court doesn't see this as abuse ... I don't know what is," said Britney, calling for "investigations" and a restraining order against her father.
Following the judge's ruling, Britney posted a video of herself horse riding and performing cartwheels on Instagram, with the caption: "Coming along, folks ... coming along!!!!! New with real representation today ... I feel GRATITUDE and BLESSED!!!!"
She signed her post with the phrase adopted by her loyal fans: "#FreeBritney."
Twists and turns
Britney, who rocketed to fame in her teens, suffered a highly public breakdown in 2007, when the shaven-headed star attacked a paparazzo's car at a petrol station.
A year later, a California court placed her under a unique legal guardianship largely governed by her father.
Britney swiftly returned to performing after that, released three albums, appeared on various television shows and even took up a Las Vegas residency.
But in January 2019, she abruptly announced she was suspending her performances until further notice.
Last month, the singer made an impassioned plea for her situation to change, alleging that she had been prevented from having a contraceptive IUD removed, despite wanting more children, and forcefully put on medication.
She said she had been made to perform shows under threat of lawsuits, and that she was not even allowed to get changed in privacy or drive her own car.
After that testimony, Samuel Ingham, Britney's lawyer appointed by court, asked to step down from his role.
So, too, did the financial management company that was set to assume joint control of Britney's estate with her father, Jamie, who remains in place. Penny accepted both of those resignations on Wednesday. Britney's long-time manager Larry Rudolph has also quit.
Britney has lots of public support, from fans chanting outside the courtroom – who greeted the news of her replacement lawyer with raucous cheers – to her musical peers Christina Aguilera and Madonna.
At a small demonstration on the National Mall in Washington, DC, Patrick Thomas, head of the recently formed Free Britney America group, called the singer's situation "archaic".
"This is not just about Britney alone. This is about every other person who is trapped in one of these, what I would call a prison," said Thomas, whose group is pushing for a congressional hearing and federal oversight of conservatorships.
Bid to avoid 'stupid' psychological testing
Penny's approval of Britney's new counsel, pending formal confirmation, is a major victory for the star.
She told the judge that she now wants the conservatorship to be terminated without having to undergo any more "stupid" psychological testing, but if tests were required she would settle for the simple removal of her father from the system.
Jamie's lawyer did not oppose the new lawyer, but told the court Britney's claim that her father is responsible for all the bad things that have happened to her is "the furthest thing from the truth".