RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The head of the closely held company that stages NASCAR races is fighting to keep the public out of hearings and documents related to a battle with his ex-wife over their high-dollar divorce settlement.
Tuesday's oral arguments before the state Court of Appeals mark the second time the court has heard NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France's plea to close court proceedings that are generally open to the public.
The court previously ruled that the public's right to open court proceedings outweighed France's interest in keeping the litigation secret.
After that appeals court ruling, a Mecklenburg County judge decided to reverse a peer judge and open court documents and hearings to the public. France is challenging that judge's decision, asserting that one trial judge had no right to overturn another's decision.
"That's so we don't have judicial anarchy," France attorney John Stephenson Jr. told the three-judge court panel.
Brian France attended Tuesday's court hearing and declined comment.
France's request for secrecy involves a dispute over whether the woman he married and divorced twice, Megan France, violated confidentiality and other provisions of the agreement they reached before divorcing in 2008.
Brian France's attorney had said in open court that the separation agreement included paying his ex-wife $9 million, alimony of $32,000 a month for 10 years and $10,000 a month in child support, according to a court filing by Megan France's lawyers.
But five months after the divorce was final, Brian France returned to court to try enforcing the agreement's confidentiality provisions. He asked a judge to decide "he was entitled to a sealed court file not only in that matter but in all future civil actions related to the agreement," according to attorneys for The Charlotte Observer and WCNC-TV, which challenged the secrecy.
"The legal implications for the citizens of our state are staggering should Mr. France's position be adopted. Contractual confidentiality between parties affects their legal obligations alone and therefore cannot extend to bind others," the media companies' attorney, Raymond Owens, wrote in a court filing.