NASCAR CEO Brian France fights to keep divorce private

As NASCAR's teams prepare for Daytona, one of the biggest ongoing storylines is the rivalry between last season's photo-finishers, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. But behind the scenes, another long-running contest rolls on, this one between NASCAR CEO Brian France and The Charlotte Observer newspaper, which has spent three years fighting to get records from France's divorce case released publicly — a battle that has public policy implications.

Although a North Carolina judge has ruled that the files should be released, France is using seemingly every legal option to keep the documents private.

The case revolves around an agreement that France struck with his ex-wife, Megan, when they sought a divorce in April 2008. The agreement, which has not been released but portions of which have been quoted in other court documents, provided her with $9 million and roughly $40,000 a month in alimony and child support for their now 5-year-old twins.

• Policy implications
• Divorce details
• France's lawsuit
• Observer's response
• Support for France

Two of the 49-year-old France's claims are that Megan breached the secrecy provisions of their deal by showing it to a man she was romantically involved with and that she also spoke disparagingly about him in front of family and friends. Instead of seeking a private settlement, he went to court to have the agreement stricken. Megan France shot back with a list of grievances of her own, including that Brian France had not been making support payments.

In December 2008, Brian France's attorneys succeeded in getting Mecklenburg County District Judge Todd Owens — in one of his last acts in office after losing a November election bid — to seal all court hearings and records, even though such court proceedings in the state are public. Several months later, District Judge Jena Culler, who inherited the case, ruled that the France proceedings should be public. And after hearing an argument from an attorney for The Charlotte Observer and WCNC-TV, she also ruled to open the court records. Brian France's attorneys appealed. More at ESPN

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