A judge ruled Tuesday to end the conservatory that had dominated the life of Amanda Bynes for the better part of a decade, who rose to fame as a child star on Nickelodeon and then went on to have widely publicized struggles with substance abuse.
A California court first ordered Ms. Bynes into receivership in 2013 — a legal settlement typically reserved for people who are elderly, ill or have disabilities — after erratic public behavior and a string of arrests. Over the years, the parents of Mrs. Bynes oversaw her life, took control of medical and mental health decisions and, for a time, her finances.
The conservatorship system has come under intense scrutiny in the past year, after Britney Spears denounced her own system as abusive and accused her father and others of exploiting her and capitalizing on her wealth and stardom. A judge agreed to end Spears’ custody in November.
But Mrs. Bynes’ custody seemed to be reaching a smoother end. Her mother, Lynn Bynes, who had acted as her conservator, told the court she agreed her daughter was now ready to live without that level of supervision, and a psychiatrist disapproved, writing that Ms Bynes “wasn’t had marked impairment in alertness and attention, information and processing, or the ability to modulate mood and affect.” Ms. Bynes’ attorney, David A. Esquibias, presented her case as an example of how a conservatorship could be effective in rehabilitating a person while being given a measure of autonomy.
“For the most part, Mother has enabled Amanda to live freely,” said Mr. Esquibias. “She never wanted to be preserved, but she understood why.”
Judge Roger L. Lund in Ventura County Superior Court on Tuesday granted Ms. Bynes’ request to close the conservatory. “She has done everything the court has asked for over a long period of time,” Judge Lund said.
Ms. Bynes, 35, rose to fame as a young cast member of “All That,” Nickelodeon’s “Saturday Night Live”-esque show, before headlining her own sketch comedy show, “The Amanda Show,” which helped keep the crazy to define the network’s 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 clashes with the law in 2012 and 2013 drew much media attention when she was arrested and charged with drink-driving, hit and run and possession of marijuana. Ms. Bynes was involuntarily detained in a mental hospital in 2013 after starting a small fire in a driveway, and was later assigned to a temporary conservatory.
In a 2018 interview with Paper Magazine, Ms. Bynes said, “I really got into my drug use and it became a very dark, sad world for me.” She told the magazine that she had been sober for almost four years.
At a time of reassessment of how the media, entertainment industry and the public have treated female celebrities who struggle with mental health or substance abuse — spurred in part by Ms. Spears’ case — Ms. Bynes offers another example of a young woman who grew up in the spotlight whose ensuing collapse was breathlessly covered by tabloids.
In recent years, Ms Bynes’s life has stabilized, her lawyer said. Now a student at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, she lives in an apartment community for women who are “ready to transition to an autonomous lifestyle,” according to papers filed in court last month that said: requested that Mrs Bynes’ conservatorship be terminated.
“Mrs. Bynes wants to live free of any restriction,” the filing said.
The former actress has said little about the conservatory in public, other than a… video posted on social media disputing the cost of her mental health treatment.
Conservatories, often referred to as guardianships, have garnered a lot of public attention as a result of Ms. Spears’ case, disability rights advocates say, and a California bill that makes its way through the state legislature would make it easier to end conservatories and could prevent courts and potential conservators require that they consider alternative options first.
Judy Mark, the president of Disability Voices United, a nonprofit working to get the legislation passed, said that while she supports ending Ms. Spears and Ms. Bynes’ conservatories, she doesn’t see it getting any easier for a more typical conservator to assert their freedoms.
“Not everyone has Instagram accounts with millions of followers and a fan base that cares about them,” said Ms. Mark. “Most conserved people 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 conservatory to ensure a smooth transition, said Tamar Arminak, a lawyer for Ms Bynes’ parents. (The custody of Ms. Bynes’s estate was terminated several years ago, leaving custody of her person, which included medical and basic life decisions.) The court ruling allows Ms. Bynes to make personal choices that she previously could not. like marrying her betrothed, said Mrs. Arminak.
“The moment it was clear and obvious that Amanda was going to do well with this conservatory, we agreed to end this conservatory,” she said.