LOS ANGELES - There were only 12 people in the audience in Judge Brenda Perry’s large wood-paneled courtroom in downtown Los Angeles' Stanley Mosk Courthouse.
I was one of them, along with 10 other reporters, and one member of the public who got in via a lottery system, according to the Court’s media relations staff.
A lot of security had to be navigated on the way in as if the #FreeBritney movement was going to have the fans storm the facilities. Better safe than sorry, of course. In fact, to back up for a bit, for the first time ever as a reporter, before the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department would even let me go through the metal detector at the Grand Street entrance, I had to show the email from the court that I had actually been approved for a seat.
So yes, there was quite a scene with Britney’s supporters outside the building, but once you did make it inside it was quiet as usual.
The place is massive. Possibly worth a visit, but not if you have to, if you know what I mean.
After waiting an hour in the hallway, we were let in to Dept. 4. Social distancing and masks are still required in the Courthouse.
When the Judge took the bench, the first thing she did was remind us we couldn’t record or broadcast what we saw, though we could report on it and quote it. In fact, no electronic devices were even allowed in the courtroom for note-taking purposes.
Britney was on the phone, her voice coming out of a small speaker attached to the front of the Judge’s bench. At least 10 attorneys representing her, her father, her mother, another Conservator, and others were on a large video monitor in the corner.
Finally, the Judge allowed Britney to speak, which was the purpose of the so-called "status hearing." After a minute of rapid-fire dialog, the Judge actually interrupted her and asked her to speak slowly so the court reporter could get it all down.
The Judge had to do that twice.
It was a very emotional Britney, reading from notes apparently, talking about how she wanted her life back.
You can read the exact quotes in the accompanying coverage but the theme was, I’ve done this long enough, given more than anyone should, been "bullied, ganged up on and left alone" and she wants it to end.
Nothing was decided Wednesday after about 90 minutes. The lawyers will all discuss the next moves and whether it will be open to the media has yet to be announced. I would bet against it because according to the Judge before the hearing was even over, she indicated that she heard reports that the audio feed, which was for listening purposes, only had in fact been recorded and it was showing up on social media, in direct violation of her order.
As for Britney, she sounded like a woman in pain, desperate for help, and very angry with her family and her circumstances, saying she’s "given more than anyone should."