Spears' lawyer fights Federline legal fees


Britney Spears' new lawyer told a court Monday that the pop star has already spent more than $1 million on her child-custody case and objects to paying nearly a half-million dollars in legal fees for ex-husband Kevin Federline, who has enough money to leave a $2,000 restaurant tip.

Attorney Stacy Phillips, who recently took over the case, asked for the hearing to challenge a move by Federline's lead lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan, to have Spears pay his legal bills.

Commissioner Scott Gordon did not rule during the hearing, part of which was held behind closed doors. Superior Court spokesman Allan Parachini said the decision may be made Tuesday.

Federline has sole custody of his two little boys by Spears, who is under the conservatorship of her father, James, following bizarre behavior and two hospitalizations. Federline and James Spears chatted amiably at court.

During the hearing, Phillips said that Federline's lawyers have billed excessively and are entitled to only about $150,00 to $175,000.

Phillips also said Federline has the money to pay his lawyers himself, citing excessive personal spending by him. She said he recently had a $365 check at a restaurant and gave the waiter a $2,000 tip.

"God bless!" Phillips said. "If he's willing to tip someone that much for serving him, he should be willing to pay his legal fees."

Kaplan argued that the $600-an-hour fees charged by him and partner James Simon were for legitimate work in an extraordinary case.

"If the court views this as a simple custody case I'm in trouble," Kaplan told Gordon.

Kaplan pointed out there were numerous hearings involving Spears' behavior, which created emergencies involving the safety of her children.

"When you have a case with monitored visitation, that is not a regular case," he said.

He insisted that it requires the complete attention of himself and his partner.

"There is no doubt that the petitioner (Britney Spears) had bad judgment and the inability to understand there was bad judgment," he said. "... I was in court between September and January eight times. I had no choice."

Kaplan said every legal move by Federline was to protect the welfare of the children.

Phillips also criticized Kaplan for courting media attention.

Kaplan said he did not bill for any time he spent with the media, and he asserted it was beneficial to the court to have post-hearing press conferences to explain what happened.

"I think everything done on our side was done because Mr. Federline was trying to protect his children from a very dangerous and fluid situation," Kaplan said.

Phillips asserted that since James Spears took over, "I think Mr. Spears and Mr. Federline are light years ahead of the lawyers and the lawyers' time will now be minimal."

The court spokesman said the closed hearing dealt with visitation and there was no change.

After sole custody of Jayden James, 1, and Sean Preston, 2, was given to Federline, Britney Spears was not allowed to see them for nearly two months until the former couple agreed to a modification of the court order that has allowed brief visits since late February.