Brian France thinks his divorce is no one’s business but his own, and he is asking the North Carolina Court of Appeals to ensure that the press and public are kept out of the courtroom and away court documents. France, CEO of the company that runs NASCAR, is upset with his ex-wife Megan, who he married and divorced twice, claiming his ex broke promises of confidentiality contained in their 2008 settlement agreement. The two have been battling over this ever since.
There is a lot of money at stake, obviously. NASCAR’s parent company is privately held and it is a very profitable business that has made Brian France very wealthy. Divorce proceedings are generally conducted in open court and anyone can watch. However, judges can seal the proceedings and sometimes do when celebrities are involved. France’s efforts have been rebuffed by lower courts. The judges decided that France’s interest in keeping the proceedings secret was less important that the public’s right to know. Moreover, much of the information he wants to hide has been aired elsewhere including the full terms of his 2008 settlement.
Brian France likes his privacy. He filed suit against his ex-wife for allegedly recording their phone conversations. In the run-up to trial his attorneys asked the federal court to seal the proceedings and the record. There may not be much left to keep confidential in this latest lap. Megan France’s attorneys say her ex-husband’s lawyers, in a previous open-court proceedings, laid out detailed information about the 2008 settlement. It included a $9 million payment, alimony of $32,000 a month for ten years and $10,000 a month in child support. Undaunted, Brian’s lawyers are demanding that all future court proceedings associated with his case, as well as the records of all previous court appearances, be sealed. Closing the garage door after the racecar has already left the pits, so to speak.
The news media has joined in the effort to keep France v. France in open court. They argue that confidentiality agreements between two parties apply to those parties alone, and has no effect on anyone else including the press. The media lawyers warn that allowing Brian France to hash out the case in private would have “staggering implications” for the citizens of North Carolina. For her part, Megan France has not taken a public position on the secrecy issue but her lawyer did urge the courts to wave the checkered flag soon so Megan “can move on with her life.”
Source: USA Today, “NASCAR CEO tries to keep court hearings private,” Emery Dalesio, Sep. 25, 2012