Oops…they did it again. The Spears family (a.k.a. the consanguine of pop icon Ms. Britney Spears) has landed itself back in court, and back in the national news headlines this week. Cleverly coined “Britneygate,” the oh-so-entertaining dispute between Britney Spears’ mother, Lynne, and Britney’s ex-manager, Sam Lufti, is now set to play out in front of a California Court of Appeals.

In 2008, Lufti filed a defamation lawsuit against Lynne Spears for her damning portrayal of him in her memoir, “Through the Storm: A Real Story of Family and Fame in a Tabloid World.” [Didn’t know Lynne Spears had a memoir? That makes two of us. The voracious bibliophile can order a copy for ten bucks here]. In the memoir, Spears describes Lufti as a “swarthy” man who is “evil” and a “predator.” She also accuses him of grinding up drugs and putting them in Britney’s food, hiding her beloved dog, and saying that “if [Lynne] tried to get rid of him, Britney would be dead and [he] would urinate on her grave.” Query whether Lynne could even make such things up . . .

Also in 2008, Lynne filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that her statements were mere opinions, and that Lufti’s reputation could not be ruined anymore than it already was due to his part in Britney’s infamous 2008 meltdown. Geez, Lynne, way to kick a guy when he’s down.

The Los Angeles Superior Court disagreed with Spears, apparently finding that Lufti’s reputation had not yet hit rock bottom, and denied the motion to dismiss the suit. The case is set to be heard by the Los Angeles Court of Appeals in the near future.

In his brief to the Court of Appeals, Lufti touts his clean criminal record and states that only a jury should decide the outcome of this case. The brief contains some fairly entertaining subparts, including a discussion of whether terms such as “evil” and “shifty” are opinions or descriptive of “acts of misconduct” that are actionable as libel.

All jokes about Britney’s torrid family life aside, there is an interesting legal issue at stake in this litigation. Can someone, particularly someone in the public eye, be “libel-proof”? In essence, was Lufti’s reputation so tainted before Lynne’s memoir hit the racks that he literally cannot succeed on a libel claim? Whether you care about the legal issues or merely enjoy the spectacle, keep an eye on “Britneygate,” as it is bound to produce some interesting fodder for the case book and tabloid alike.

Lauren Sibyl Bair

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