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Brian France drops secrecy request in suit against ex-wife

NASCAR chair is suing ex-wife in federal court, claiming she taped phone conversations.

- gwright@charlotteobserver.com
Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2011

NASCAR Chairman Brian France has withdrawn his request to have the documents sealed in a federal lawsuit against his ex-wife that accuses her of taping his telephone calls to extort money from him.

But his amended complaint, filed under seal in June, remains secret. The Observer's attorneys are expected to continue to seek its unsealing.

France's most recent request, filed last week, gave notice of withdrawing his motion to seal "all court filings." It's unclear if the amended complaint is included in his request.

France did not give a reason in his one-page notice for his decision to withdraw the request.

The Charlotte Observer has filed a motion opposed to the sealing of the documents in Brian France's lawsuit - documents that are almost always open to the public.

"Mr. France is entitled to no better treatment - and deserves no worse - than any other litigant," the Observer's attorneys argued.

Megan France, in a motion filed earlier this month, said sealing all the court documents was not necessary.

"Megan P. France does not agree that such a draconian step is necessary to protect the legitimate privacy concerns of her, her children or her ex-husband," attorneys for Megan France said in their response to the motion to seal.

Megan France's attorneys, however, said their client agrees that any documents referring to the Frances' separation agreement should be placed under seal. That agreement involves the Frances' property settlement as well as the terms of child support, child custody and alimony.

"Ms. France reserves the right to move to seal other pleadings in this case, on a pleading-by-pleading basis, if she determines that such a step is necessary to protect her privacy or that of her children," her attorneys wrote.

Brian France has agreed to pay Megan France a total of $9 million as well as $32,500 a month in alimony for 10 years and $10,000 a month in child support, according to court documents. Their separation agreement also spells out the custody terms for their young twins and provisions about their upbringing.

In his original lawsuit in federal court, Brian France said that in the telephone conversations his ex-wife recorded the two had discussed details about property distribution, the custody of their two children and what's described in one document as "sensitive personal and financial matters."

Megan France's lawyers have asked a federal judge to dismiss her ex-husband's lawsuit. She says she lawfully recorded some of the telephone conversations so she could have an accurate record of her ex-husband's "false statements, unrealistic demands and bullying and intimidating tactics" in their ongoing marital support and custody case now pending in state court.

The documents in the Frances' state court legal battle have been sealed. The Observer has also gone to court to ask that those documents be unsealed.

Brian France has accused his former wife in state court of breaching their separation agreement. He is seeking to scrap the agreement that calls for him to pay the mother of his children millions of dollars.

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