Chris Pizzello/Invision / AP
Tuesday, May 28, 2019 | 3:54 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — A judge cleared a Los Angeles courtroom of media and other audience members at a Tuesday afternoon hearing on the extension of a restraining order obtained by Britney Spears against a former associate.
Attorneys for Spears and her father argued that media reports of private details that would be revealed would bring emotional harm to the singer in a moment of serious vulnerability.
“The anxiety caused would be great,” said Samuel D. Ingham III, an attorney for Spears who did not appear at the hearing.
Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny strongly agreed and cleared the courtroom for the testimony of three witnesses, including Spears’ father Jamie Spears, who controls most of the 37-year-old singer’s affairs through a court-ordered conservatorship.
The courtroom is commonly cleared for hearings on her conservatorship, when private financial information and details about her minor sons are discussed, but the media was barred Tuesday based almost entirely on the mental effects the airing of the testimony would have on Britney Spears.
Jamie Spears had reportedly been in such poor enough health in recent months that his daughter put her career on hold to be with him, but there were no outward signs of illness as he appeared in court amid a team of lawyers and spoke to the judge before the courtroom was emptied.
The hearing was to seek an extension of a temporary restraining order against Sam Lutfi, a former Britney Spears confidante who has said he once had a contract to be her manager. The family has been in legal fights with him for a decade, including a restraining order taken out in 2009.
The new order issued May 8 demands that Lutfi stay at least 200 yards (183 meters) from Britney Spears, her parents and her two sons, and to refrain from contacting or disparaging them.
Lutfi and his attorney argued in documents opposing the order that the court is violating his First Amendment rights by prohibiting his making comments about Spears and her family.
Lutfi, 44, states in the papers that he had not contacted Britney Spears in 10 years, and that her lawyers had not shown that he did her harm.
“There has been no psychological, or other evidence offered by Ms. Spears that she has actually suffered any distress,” argued Lutfi, who was also set to testify at the cleared hearing.
Lutfi acknowledged in documents that he had sent several text messages to Britney Spears’ mother Lynne and called her once.
He has been critical on social media of the conservatorship that has left the singer under the control of the court and her father for 11 years, adding his voice to a chorus of her fans who want her “freed” from the arrangement.
Jamie Spears last week notified the court that he is seeking to extend the conservatorship from California to Louisiana, Hawaii and Florida.
Conservatorships, known in many states as guardianships, are normally reserved for people in mental and physical conditions far more severe than that of Britney Spears.
But judges have allowed the arrangement to remain in place far longer than was expected when it was first imposed at a moment of crisis.
There have been signs the arrangement may change.
Spears made a rare appearance earlier this month at a court status hearing on the conservatorship, along with her parents.