A judge in California freed the former Nickelodeon star from the arrangement that had governed her life after highly publicized struggles with substance abuse.
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A judge ruled on Tuesday to end the conservatorship that for the better part of a decade has governed the life of Amanda Bynes, who shot to fame as a child star on Nickelodeon and went on to have highly publicized struggles with substance abuse.
A court in California first ordered that Ms. Bynes be put in a conservatorship — a legal arrangement typically reserved for people who are older, ailing or have disabilities — in 2013, after erratic public behavior and a series of arrests. Over the years, Ms. Bynes’s parents have overseen her life, taking control of medical and mental health decisions and, for a time, her finances.
The conservatorship system has come under intense scrutiny in the last year, after Britney Spears condemned her own as abusive and accused her father and others of exploiting her and seeking to capitalize off her wealth and stardom. A judge agreed to terminate Spears’s conservatorship in November.
But Ms. Bynes’s conservatorship appeared to reach a smoother ending. Her mother, Lynn Bynes, who had acted as her conservator, told the court that she agreed that her daughter was now ready to live without that level of oversight, and a psychiatrist signed off, writing that Ms. Bynes had “no apparent impairment in alertness and attention, information and processing, or ability to modulate mood and affect.” Ms. Bynes’s lawyer, David A. Esquibias, held her case up as an example of how a conservatorship could be effective in rehabilitating a person while allowing them a degree of autonomy.
“For the most part, mom has allowed Amanda to live freely,” Mr. Esquibias said. “She never wanted to be conserved, but she understood why.”
At Ventura County Superior Court on Tuesday, Judge Roger L. Lund granted Ms. Bynes’s request to terminate the conservatorship. “She’s done everything the court has asked over a long period of time,” Judge Lund said.
Ms. Bynes, 35, gained prominence as a young cast member of “All That,” Nickelodeon’s “Saturday Night Live”-style show, before headlining her own sketch comedy program, “The Amanda Show,” which helped define the network’s goofy brand of non sequitur humor. Ms. Bynes then graduated to roles in mainstream romantic comedies including “She’s the Man” and “Easy A.”
A series of run-ins with the law in 2012 and 2013 drew intense media coverage, as she was arrested and accused of driving under the influence, hit and run and possession of marijuana. Ms. Bynes was held involuntarily in a psychiatric hospital in 2013 after setting a small fire in a driveway, and was later ordered into a temporary conservatorship.
In an interview with Paper Magazine in 2018, Ms. Bynes said, “I got really into my drug usage and it became a really dark, sad world for me.” She told the magazine that she had been sober for nearly four years.
At a time of reassessment of how the media, the entertainment industry and the public have treated female celebrities going through mental health or substance abuse struggles — spurred in part by Ms. Spears’s case — Ms. Bynes offers another example of a young woman raised in the spotlight whose subsequent breakdown was breathlessly covered by tabloids.
In recent years, Ms. Bynes’s life has stabilized, her lawyer said. She is now studying at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles and lives in an apartment community for women “poised to transition into an autonomous lifestyle,” according to papers filed with the court last month that requested Ms. Bynes’s conservatorship be terminated.
“Ms. Bynes desires to live free of any constraint,” the filing said.
The former actress has said little publicly about the conservatorship, aside from a video posted to social media in which she took issue with the cost of her mental health treatment.
Conservatorships, often called guardianships, have received a great deal of public interest as a result of Ms. Spears’s case, disability rights advocates say, and a bill in California making its way through the state legislature would make it easier for conservatorships to be terminated and would require courts and potential conservators to consider alternative options first.
Judy Mark, the president of Disability Voices United, a nonprofit organization that is working to get the legislation passed, said that while she supports the termination of Ms. Spears’s and Ms. Bynes’s conservatorships, she is not seeing it getting easier for a more typical conservatee to assert their freedoms.
“Not everyone has Instagram accounts with millions of followers and a fan base that cares about them,” Ms. Mark said. “Most people conserved are normal people with disabilities, and most courts are very paternalistic.”
Ms. Bynes and her parents have long been preparing for the termination of the conservatorship to ensure a smooth transition, said Tamar Arminak, a lawyer for Ms. Bynes’s parents. (The conservatorship of Ms. Bynes’s estate was ended several years ago, leaving the conservatorship in charge of her person, which involved medical and basic life decisions.) The court’s ruling allows Ms. Bynes to make personal choices that she did not have before, such as getting married to her fiancé, Ms. Arminak said.
“The moment that it was clear and apparent that Amanda would do well off this conservatorship we agreed to terminate this conservatorship,” she said.
Amanda Bynes, Former Child Star, Is Released From Conservatorship – The New York Times