WASHINGTON - Cementing a conflict between the circuits, the federal appeals court in Atlanta has refused to reconsider its decision allowing Florida to ban bank insurance sales.

The ruling in Barnett Bank v. Gallagher, of which lawyers learned Wednesday, virtually ensures Supreme Court review of the case, which raises the question of whether the McCarran-Ferguson Act allows states to regulate, and thus block, bank insurance sales.

"That clears the deck for Supreme Court review," said David W. Roderer, a partner at Winston & Strawn who represents a number of industry groups on insurance matters.

"The good news for bankers is that it will accelerate the calendar for the inevitable rehearing of this case at the Supreme Court," added Bankers Roundtable general counsel Richard Whiting.

The lawyers are excited because the justices often take cases where the lower courts disagree. In this case, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati and the Atlanta court have drawn opposite conclusions about the power of states to ban bank entry into the insurance market.

A Barnett spokesman said the bank can't comment because it hasn't yet seen the decision. Barnett has 90 days to file an appeal with the high court.

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