Bank of Boston Corp. filed a lawsuit in a federal court Wednesday seeking the right to sell insurance.

In the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Boston, the bank maintains that a U.S. Supreme Court decision last March in Barnett Bank of Marion County v. the Florida Insurance Commissioner, overrides Massachusetts law prohibiting banks from selling insurance.

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts insurance commissioner denied an application filed by the $60 billion-asset banking company seeking insurance powers.

Bank of Boston had hoped to settle the issue without going to court. It was working with the Massachusetts Attorney General's office to find a loophole in the state's insurance law that would avoid a court battle.

But the Massachusetts insurance department has maintained that only a court - not a state agency - has the authority to override the law.

Some say politics is now driving the battle.

"This could have been handled administratively," said Richard Starr, chairman of the Financial Institutions Insurance Association, a bank trade group.

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