WASHINGTON - The insurance industry formally asked the U.S. Supreme Court late last week to overturn a federal appeals court's decision allowing Owensboro National Bank to sell insurance.

The widely expected appeal now presents the justices with three cases on bank insurance powers. The other two involve Barnett Banks Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla., and First National Bank of Denham Springs, in Louisiana.

In the petition, insurance industry attorney Ann Kappler of Jenner & Block asked the court to accept the Owensboro case, and then put it on hold until it resolves Barnett.

"It is just easier for the court to do it that way, and to have just one case on the record before them," Ms. Kappler said in an interview.

Attorneys for the banking and insurance industries want the court to focus on the pending Barnett appeal because it presents the legal issues more clearly.

Ms. Kappler said if the court doesn't want to decide the issue strictly on the basis of Barnett, it can hear the other cases first, or merge all three.

Banks are itching to fully exploit the insurance market, viewing it as a huge source of potential fee income.

The court is expected to announce Oct. 2 which case or cases it will hear. Arguments should occur this fall, with a decision expected this winter.

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