Hoping to sway the U.S. Supreme Court, banking and credit union trade groups filed briefs Monday in the AT&T Family Federal Credit Union case.

The justices are expected to announce Jan. 17 whether they will hear the case. The lawsuit challenges the National Credit Union Administration's 1980 decision to let occupation-based credit unions serve employees from more than one company.

The American Bankers Association's brief urges the justices to reject the case. It said the NCUA should ask Congress - not the Supreme Court - to rewrite the law to permit credit unions to serve employees at multiple companies.

The ABA also said this case involves a routine review of an agency's rules. There are no extenuating circumstances that require the Supreme Court's attention, the group said.

Finally, the ABA rebutted the government's argument that bankers lack the legal right to sue NCUA over credit union expansions. The ABA said federal appeals courts both here and in Cincinnati have ruled that the industry has a right to file.

The National Association of Federal Credit Unions took the opposite tack, arguing that the Supreme Court should take the case. It said credit unions will face safety-and-soundness challenges if they cannot diversify their membership bases.

Also, the trade group argued, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit should have deferred to NCUA's interpretation of the common bond law. "The court's reading does not take into account the full text of the statute and produces results fundamentally at odds with what Congress intended," it said.

The dispute began in December 1990 when the ABA and four North Carolina banks sued the NCUA for giving AT&T Family permission to serve more than 150 unrelated companies. In July, the D.C. appellate court sided with the ABA, ruling that all members of a credit union must share one common bond.

U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Jackson, implementing the July ruling, barred occupation-based credit unions from adding customers who do not share a common bond with the core membership. The appeals court modified that restriction on Dec. 24, giving credit unions the right to serve all companies within their existing fields of membership.

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