The head of one of the most popular sports here in the United States is currently embroiled in a rather interesting legal battle concerning his ability to keep divorce-related documents and hearings out of the public eye.
Brian France, chairman and CEO of NASCAR, filed for divorce from his then-wife Megan France back in 2008 in North Carolina. As part of the divorce settlement, France agreed to pay his ex-wife $9 million, $32,000 a month in alimony for a decade and $10,000 a month in child support.
However, five months after the divorce, his attorneys once again entered the courtroom seeking to enforce the confidentiality provisions of the divorce settlement that Megan France had previously agreed to follow. Here, they argued that Brian France “was entitled to a sealed court file not only in that matter but in all future civil actions related to the agreement.”
Under North Carolina law, most divorces and divorce hearings are treated as matters of public record. However, a judge does have the option of sealing high-profile divorce/child custody cases.
Here, it appears the trial court judge granted France’s motion to keep the divorce-related litigation private. However, The Charlotte Observer and a local television station challenged this decision.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals ultimately determined that France’s interest in keeping the litigation private was outweighed by the public right to an open legal proceeding.
Based on this decision, a different trial court judge reversed the original judge, holding that the court documents and hearings in the France litigation should be open to the public.
However, France’s attorneys challenged this decision, arguing for a second time before the North Carolina Court of Appeals just this week. Here, they asserted that a trial court judge does not have discretion to overturn the decision of a peer judge.
“That’s so we don’t have judicial anarchy,” said one of France’s attorneys to the three-judge appellate panel.
The two aforementioned media companies once again challenged France’s request for secrecy, arguing that he has no constitutional or compelling right to privacy that outweighs the public right to an open legal proceeding.
For her part, Megan France is not taking a side in the matter, but has asked the court to decide the matter as quickly as possible so that the litigation over the confidentiality provisions can proceed.
Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog …
To learn more about dissolution of marriage or other divorce-related issues, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal or financial advice.
Thatsracin.com, “NASCAR CEO France fights to keep divorce private,” Sept. 25, 2012