First National Bank of Denham Springs, La., is asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to overturn a lower-court decision and allow bank insurance sales.

First National argued that the Court of Appeal for the First Circuit misinterpreted the National Bank Act, Louisiana's banking statute, and the McCarran-Ferguson Act when it ruled last month that the insurance commissioner can block bank entry into the business.

The bank said in its April 3 petition that the insurance commissioner lacks the authority to enforce the insurance restrictions, because they are included in the state banking code. Also, the bank said, federal law clearly allows it to sell insurance in small towns.

"That is what we think will be ultimately held by the court," said A. Shelby Easterly, a partner at Easterly & Pittman who represents First National. "The petition to the Louisiana Supreme Court is the next step in the process."

The dispute is one of a half-dozen insurance powers cases winding through the courts. Two of the cases, involving Barnett Banks Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., and Owensboro National Bank of Owensboro, Ky., are expected to go the U.S. Supreme Court late this summer.

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